Dr. Tonuzi assisting an SCI patient with mobility

Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury refers to damage to any part of the spinal cord or its nerves. More often, spinal cord injury results in persistent decreases in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the injury site.

The sacral spine region is located below the lumbar spine region. Five bones that are fused together make up the triangle-shaped sacrum. Joined at the end are two to four small, partially-fused vertebrae, collectively known as the coccyx, or tailbone.

There is no spinal cord in the sacrum region itself; however, sacral nerve damage in the sacral spine area can have symptoms similar to other regions of spinal cord damage.

If you have a sacral spinal cord injury, it may appear as though every element of your life is severely impacted. This kind of harm affects the physical body, mind, emotions, and social life. However, you can still get treated and recover from a sacral spinal cord injury. It all starts with knowing the level of the spinal cord injury, which is essential in helping you understand and determine what functions may be affected before and after treatment.

Levels of Injury

There are five levels in the sacral area of the spinal cord. If you have a sacral-level spinal cord injury, your upper body and part of your legs will still function normally. It’s also crucial to note that the bottom regions of your sacral spinal cord control your bowel and bladder functions. Therefore, any level of spinal cord injury is likely to subject you to bowel and bladder issues.

There are 5 types of sacral spinal cord injuries:

S1 Sacral Injury

This type of injury mainly affects the hip and the groin region and extends to the fourth and pinky toes, heel, and part of the calf. If you have an S1 spinal cord injury, you also experience ankle pain.

S2 Sacral Injury

The S2 nerve affects the back of the thigh, having sensation in most parts of the back of your legs and the ability to bend the knees.

S3 Sacral Injury

Mainly affects the areas around the medial buttocks.

S4 & 5 Sacral Injuries

These nerves affect the perianal area, leaving some regions intact and free from damage.
The pelvic cavity is affected by the S2, S3, and S4 spinal nerves, which facilitate functions connected to sex, the bladder, and the bowels. Accordingly, these functions may or may not be impaired depending on the severity of the injury.

Effects of a Sacral Injury

Despite the absence of a spinal cord in the sacral area of the spine, the sacral nerve begins in the lumbar spine. Therefore, any injury to the lower lumbar spinal nerve that extends into the sacrum may cause severe symptoms resembling spinal damage.

If you have sacral nerve damage, you may experience symptoms on one or both sides of the body. Meanwhile, damage to the sacral spine may cause you to lose some function in your legs or hips. You could find it difficult to walk or drive a car.

Any sacral cord injury may badly impact your bladder or bowel control, as it’s an essential part of the pelvic organ system. However, it’s still possible to be able to take care of yourself and be completely independent. Sacral spinal nerve damage can impede erectile function and accompanying fertility.

Key Signs and Symptoms for Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

Signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury may appear right away, or may take some time to appear when the spinal cord swells and bleeds. If you suffer sacral nerve roots, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of control of your bladder or bowel
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain extending down the back of your legs
  • Spasms of your muscles
  • Loss of ability to feel heat or cold
  • Pain in the groin and buttocks area
  • Burning sensation or numbness
  • Reduced ability to walk
  • Other barriers to activities of daily living

Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

One of the most frequent causes of spinal cord injury is physical trauma. Automobile accidents also cause roughly half of the injuries. Trauma can take many different forms, including falls from great heights, sports injuries, and violent acts like gunshot wounds or spine stab.

Other causes include infection, inflammation, or a tumor compressing the nerve.
You run a higher risk of spinal cord injury if your spinal canal is smaller than average.

Degeneration, congenital abnormalities, and osteoporosis are additional factors in sacral spinal cord damage.

How Spinal Cord Injury can be treated

Patients with injuries to the sacrum to the spinal cord might get a variety of treatments. To treat your nerve root injuries, your spinal cord injury doctor may suggest drugs like non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It is crucial to remember that the sooner you act, the better your chances are of being able to lessen the inflammation surrounding the spinal cord.

You can also undergo nerve surgery and vertebral fusion surgery to help relieve pressure on the spinal nerves and stabilize the spinal column surrounding the injury to the spinal cord.

Therapy is yet another option for those with spinal cord injuries. You can join a physical therapy session to retain function in the areas not impacted by the spinal cord injury while enhancing strength in those areas. You can also learn new skills and regain function after spinal cord injury with occupational therapy.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

The spinal cord injury recovery process depends on how severe the injury was. You have a better chance of recovering quickly if you have incomplete spinal cord injuries. Individuals with severe injury, however, may require more time to recuperate.

An incomplete injury is a partial spinal cord injury without a significant impact on the signals coming from the brain. But, a complete injury is more severe and prevents the passage of all nerve signals through the spinal cord.

Recovery could take 8 to 12 weeks if you sustain a sacral fracture. Between 85% and 90% of cases result in successful fusion of the fracture on its own. Malunion can sometimes develop due to delayed therapy, changing the pelvic structure in the process.

Recover from Spinal Cord Injuries at Brooks Rehabilitation

Brook Rehabilitation is Florida’s premiere treatment center for those recovering from a spinal cord injury. We provide you with social and emotional support through our rehabilitation programs, which include counseling and various therapies – all integrated with cutting edge technology. We have a team of experienced and knowledgeable doctors, nurses, and therapists who are prepared to assist you and know the requirements for your spinal cord injury recovery.

No matter how severe your injury may be, the Brooks Rehabilitation services can help you manage the obstacles associated with spinal injuries. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of our specialized programs and services.

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