Spinal Decompression

Spinal Cord Injury Treatments and Therapies


Spinal cord injury/s are separated into two phases: There is primary injury and secondary injury. The primary injury refers to the physical trauma to the spine. This could be a:

  • Car Accident
  • Sports accident
  • Severe fall
  • Other traumatic events

When the primary injury happens, neurological injury to the nerves and spinal cord can take place in the form of:


  • The compressing of the spinal cord/nerves can cause an impact of bone, disc, and ligaments against the tissues. This is because the spinal canal becomes narrowed and shifts out of proper alignment. This causes the nerves to get pinched during the injury.


  • Tissues get stretched beyond what they’re capable of, so the spinal cord can suffer serious damage with the slightest trauma directly to it. Complete cutting or severing of the cord is rare.

Blood supply inadequacy

  • The injury can cut off or significantly reduce blood supply to the cord and nerves. If the microscopic blood vessels get damaged, almost instantaneous hemorrhage or bleeding into the spinal cord.

Spinal cord damage can be seen on an MRI immediately after trauma.

  • Secondary injury is a cascade of events that occur after the initial trauma, which is the body’s attempt to heal the injury.
  • This could be seconds, hours, days, and weeks afterward. Several factors play a role in how severe secondary injury will be.
  • The body releases chemicals in response to trauma.
  • These chemicals cause inflammation, decreased blood flow, and cell death.

During this cascade, treatments/therapies for spinal cord injuries are usually directed at one or more steps. Goals of treatment:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase blood flow
  • Reduce scar formation
  • Slow degradation and cell death

The overall treatment of a spine injury is focused on stabilizing the injury. Once that has been accomplished, there are two following goals:

  1. Transplanting nerves
  2. Nerve regeneration

Treatments for Spinal Cord Injury

The treatment priority is to reduce the effects of primary and secondary injuries. One is to immobilize the spine to prevent further injury. This typically happens at the scene of the accident and can be done with a hard collar or brace. IV fluids and medications to maintain blood pressure and possible administration of oxygen may be used. These techniques are fairly standard for dealing with primary injury/s.

  • Surgery could be needed to remove physical impingement/compression on the nerves, restore blood flow, and provide room for subsequent inflammation to help the body heal itself.
  • Sometimes surgery takes place later to restore the alignment of the bone and correct any deformities that may have occurred. This is as important as decompression for maximizing a patient’s rehabilitation. Stabilization from surgery can help patients sit upright, walk, and maintain proper weight on the trunk. It also helps to avoid developing posture problems in the future.
  • Methylprednisolone is a steroid that’s considered a neuroprotective agent. This is the only drug treatment supported by the medical community to be used immediately following the primary injury. There is still debate in the medical community as to the effectiveness of this steroid. To date, it has not been defined as a standard of care by any major medical associations.

Treatment Research

Other treatments have been proposed and proven successful in animal trials. These treatments first go through animal trials before human trials. Replicating the benefits in humans is still quite difficult to achieve. 100 different treatments do work in animals; however, methylprednisolone is the only treatment that has demonstrated consistent results.

Reasons why research for spinal cord injuries is tough:

Anatomical differences in animals’ spinal cords: While rodents are typically used for most research, their spinal cords have the ability to create stepping patterns without signals from the brain. That means they can learn to walk again after a spinal cord injury with no treatment. The human spinal cord cannot do this.

The differences between an actual injury and a simulated one: Actual injuries that result in trauma to the spine usually have neurological compression that exceeds that seen in the animal models during the simulated injury. This means that treatments that are effective in animal trials where there is less trauma to the bones and nerves than when the same treatments are tried for actual injuries could be less effective because the injury/s are more severe.

Researchers typically use mild/moderate spinal cord injuries during spinal cord treatment tests. Human injuries can vary from one extreme to another and are either too severe for therapy or too mild to recover without treatment.

Doing the same experiments and research on animals and humans is complicated: Animal research has all kinds of variables that can’t be controlled in human studies. Different models of injury happen at different times and are treated with different medications, and all contribute to inconsistencies. The results significantly change the accounts of how useful any given treatment is, especially when comparing animal studies and human studies.

Example – A laboratory treatment begins within one hour after injury simulation. This doesn’t happen in clinical settings because, typically, first responders at accident sites work to stabilize the patient’s airway and spine before they are transported to an emergency room. Replicating that procedure with actual first responders can be quite difficult in clinical studies.

Promising Treatments

There are promising treatments for spinal cord injury:

  • Hypothermia
  • Naloxone
  • Corticosteroids

All three have shown positive results in animal trials. But there have been varying results in human trials. While these are positive results, further research from scientists and physicians is needed to develop a highly effective treatment for spinal cord injury.

Hypothermia treatment has piqued a great deal of interest based on a case of its use on a professional football player that suffered a spinal cord injury. It was a success, but unfortunately, other human studies utilizing this treatment failed to demonstrate the same benefits, and some believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Physicians believe that the player’s positive outcome was the result of a less severe injury and early decompression and not necessarily from the hypothermia treatment. Researchers debate that freezing reduces blood flow in the injured spinal cord but that it could worsen the secondary injury/s.


Treating spinal cord injury research is still a major focus in the medical community. With progress taking place, there is still not yet a breakthrough. Continued investigation into treatments for spinal cord injuries will go on until spinal injuries are no more.

Severe Sciatica Chiropractic Pain Relief

NCBI Resources

Spinal injury or trauma can result in myofascial pain syndrome, but lifestyle factors usually have a hand in the condition. Poor posture over a long period, for example, sleeping in an awkward position, can cause physical muscular stress on the spinal musclesMental and emotional stress can present itself through muscle tension that helps the development of trigger points. The trapezius muscle that extends from the back of the neck down the shoulders and upper back is the most common site of spinal trigger points and myofascial pain because of the significant amount of pressure the muscle has to bear susceptibility to whiplash.

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The information herein on "Spinal Cord Injury Treatments and Therapies" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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