Lumbar spine injury occurs when you injure the part of your spinal column that makes up your lower back.
In this article, we’ll go over what happens when you injure the lumbar region and signs of recovery to look out for.
Causes of Lumbar Spine Injury
The lumbar vertebrae are largest because they must support the weight of your trunk and head.
The L4 and L5 vertebrae carry the most weight but are also extremely flexible, which makes them susceptible to injury.
When the spine gets hit, vertebrae can get fractured and compress the spinal cord, causing paralysis.
The spinal cord can also incur damage through non-traumatic events such as tumors, infections, and herniated discs.
Lumbar Spine Injury and Paraplegia
Paraplegia is paralysis of your lower extremities.
Upper body function is not affected by lumbar spine injuries.
Complete paralysis is when you have absolutely no control or feeling below your level of injury.
It means that all pathways at and below the level of injury no longer connect to the brain. Even though the area below the injury is completely fine, it can’t receive brain signals.
In contrast, incomplete paralysis is when you have partial control or sensation below your level of injury.
This means that some neural circuits survived the injury.
Those with incomplete paraplegia have a better chance of recovery.
Symptoms of Lumbar Spine Injury
Under each of your vertebrae is a pair of nerves that connect to various parts of your body.
The spinal cord itself ends at the L1 or L2 vertebrae, but nerve roots extend from it to the rest of the body.
The lumbar nerves generally affect the area around the hips and legs.
Lumbar spinal cord injury symptoms include:
- Gas pains
- Chronic fatigue
- Neurogenic bowel
- Neurogenic bladder
- Menstrual problems
- Knee pain
- Lower back pain
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the legs
Lumbar Spine Injury Recovery
Although there currently isn’t a treatment for spinal cord injury, there is a lot of promising research and developments.
The main thing we want to emphasize is the importance of high repetition movement. Whether it’s through generating new neural circuits, or by working around the injury through electric stimulation, your body needs to reteach itself how to move through lots of repetition.
Physical therapy is a must for spinal cord injury recovery because it helps to target and strengthen weak muscles. The more you repeat, the better the results.
When recovering from lumbar spinal cord injury, look for improvements in:
- controlling hip flexion (knees to chest)
- knee extension (straightening the leg)
- ankle dorsiflexion (moving the foot upwards)
- big toe extension (raising or separating your big toe).
Living with Lumbar Spine Injury
Lumbar spinal cord injury patients can definitely take charge of their independence by learning to adapt.
The good thing about lumbar spine injury is that it does not affect your upper body. You can still perform a lot of everyday tasks like cooking, grooming, and eating.
Depending on the severity of your injury, assistive mobility devices like wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, and canes can help you get around.
Some lumbar spinal cord injury patients may even be able to walk for short distances on their own.
Many sports are now adapted for wheelchair users and encourage SCI patients with paraplegia to be active and social.
You can live a very happy and fulfilling life with a lumbar spine injury. It just requires a positive mindset and willingness to adjust.