The spine is a vital part of the human anatomy. A central nerve center that transmits messages from the brain to the body and back again. A supportive structure that holds, carries and connects various parts of the body. A crucial anatomical framework that makes it possible for us to walk, to stand, to run, to maintain our balance and mobility. And it is due to the great importance of the spine that the phenomenon of the spinal contusion is such a prevalent and concerning one for today’s orthopedic patient.
Even the slightest spinal injury can have a serious impact on one’s body, being and life; and a spinal contusion can bear serious consequences on one’s life and health.
A spinal contusion definition may be difficult to assess and may sound deceptively simple in context. A contusion, for all intents and purposes, is a bruise; or “a region of injured tissue or skin in which blood capillaries have been ruptured.” And while most bruises heal quickly and with no need for extensive medical treatment (save perhaps a bandage and a bit of antibiotic ointment), a spinal contusion is a far more serious manner.
This is owing to the sensitive and critical location of this particular bruise. A spinal contusion involves the bruising of the spinal cord–a sensitive bundle of nerves that, as noted, controls many vital functions within the human body. Ranking among the most common varieties of spinal cord injury, this can occur when external pressure is applied to the spinal cord. The neural pathways of the spinal cord cannot regenerate once impaired–which is why a contusion can possibly lead to paralysis.
Just as the case with any bruise, contusions of the spine can involve bleeding and inflammation, swelling and pain. And due to the location of this particular contusion, this bleeding can cause heart issues, the disruption of nerve impulses, and a host of other serious health issues.
Given the potential severity of the spinal contusion, it is very important to identify spinal contusion symptoms. And in a general sense, intense pain and burning (a frequent symptom of other spinal and physical disorders in general) are not characteristics of spinal contusions. Quite the contrary, the primary symptom of the spinal contusion is acute numbness. Those who suffer from spinal contusions often experience a feeling of tingling or numbness in one’s extremities, loss of sensation in one’s feet, a loss of functionality in one’s hands, etc. As opposed to the severe, reverberating pain that one might expect from this condition, they instead feel little or nothing in affected areas. They may feel a loss of feeling or even movement around the afflicted area.
Although not always painful, a spinal contusion is nonetheless impactful on the life of the sufferer. Imagine losing your ability to feel and function in any area of your body, let alone an essential appendage needed to move, work, grasp, carry, or perform other everyday functions that we all too often take for granted.
And in other cases, a spinal contusion can indeed be a painful experience, resulting in a phenomenon known as spinal trauma.
In select cases, by contrast, a spinal contusion can indeed come associated with burning and shocking sensations in one’s extremities; feelings that, in addition to causing limited motion in the afflicted areas, can cause a great deal of pain, discomfort and severe emotional distress as well.
In instances of spinal trauma, the pain and burning of the extremities can lead also to a lack of mobility and extreme bodily discomfort. Other signs of trauma caused by spinal contusions could include spinal compression or pressure on the spine, incontinence or a loss of bladder control, memory loss, speech problems, muscle staticity, swelling, heart and blood pressure issues, speech impediments, attention span shortages, breathing problems, digestive problems, nerve and muscle control, etc.
It is evident that any instance of a spinal contusion can wreak havoc on the human body. And, in extreme cases, spinal contusion paralysis is a very real possibility.
When one thinks about it, it makes very sad sense that any given spinal injury could very well lead to spinal contusion paralysis. Paralysis, after all, is a permanent or temporary inability to move a given part of the body; and in virtually all cases, paralysis is caused by nerve damage. And since that mass of nerves known as the spinal cord relays messages between the brain and many major parts of the body, a malfunction of the spinal cord can affect–if not outright halt–any or part of the function of otherwise healthy body parts.
This paralysis can be either partial or complete, depending on the size and portion of the spinal column affected. In a possible worst-case scenario, the nerves of the spinal column might be severed totally. Instances of spinal based paralysis might arise from injuries or diabetic disorders. The patients facing this affliction may find themselves unable to move or facing a limited ability to move; or perhaps dealing with some highly troubling cardiovascular issues. Overall, spinal problem accounts for 23 percent of paralysis cases.
Paralysis generally occurs in spinal contusion patients when another medical condition is present, such as diabetes. Spinal contusion paralysis can vary in severity, from slow and laborious movements to total immobility. You may have extreme difficulty moving your feet or other appendages, feeling little to no sensation. Or you simply may find yourself unable to move.
Given the seriousness of this condition, many patients are prompted to ask, Can you recover from a spinal contusion?
Indeed, sufferers seek an end to the pain and the suffering, the anxiety and restricted mobility, seeking a resolution that will enable them to return to healthy, mobile and fully functional lives. And, luckily and with the advent of modern medical technology, you can treat and resolve most instances of spinal contusion. And with just the right regimen of treatment and exercise, you too can make a full recovery from this or any other spinal disorder.
First, though, for the not so good news: Currently, it seems a virtual impossibility to reverse severe damage to an injured spinal cord. And when patients pose the question, how long does a spinal contusion take to heal?, they might initially not like the answer.
Indeed, many patients take six to 12 months to recover from severe spinal cord damage, with extended periods of long-term hospitalization and rehabilitation needed for up to six to 12 months.
Ultimately, the severity of a spinal contusion, the time that it takes to recover, and the presence of paralysis all will depend on the location and severity of the origin concussion.
Ready for some good news? Well here it comes; as it turns out, there is indeed hope and help for spinal contusion patients.
In supplying a definitive answer to the question, how long does it take a spinal contusion to heal, the answer can vary from patient to patient. In general, though, the stages of healing can take the following structure:
- The physician will perform an MRI or related diagnostic test to determine the exact nature and severity of the spinal contusion condition. And, if needed, an emergency spinal decompression procedure might be performed to decompress the spinal cord and/or to drain any accumulated blood associated with the diagnosed contusion. This procedure might help the patient avoid prolonged or sustained damage to the spine as a direct result of the contusion.
- The physician will immobilize and stabilize the spine, to assure that no further damage or injury is rendered to the spine as well to assess existing damage. This phase might span from a single day to several weeks, depending on the severity of this particular spine condition.
- The physician will work to control any degree of inflammation and swelling associated with this particular instance of spinal contusion. While inflammation is a fairly customary part of any recovery process, a severe instance of this symptom can hinder one’s recovery time, range of motion, and pain levels. This phase can take anywhere from several days to several weeks.
- The full and true healing process commences. This is the phase in which the patient restructures their spine and reclaims their full range of motion, health and vitality.
So exactly how is this going to happen? Again, and we hate to sound like a broken CD at this point, but this all depends on the variety and the severity of the spinal contusion. In most cases, a regimen of cold therapy will be used to alleviate pain and inflammation, to promote decompression and to relieve pain and instability. This could be accomplished via conventional cold wraps and compresses, or–in more serious cases–via a minimally invasive surgical procedure known as cryotherapy.
Basically and essentially, cryotherapy involves the insertion of a probe into the tissue adjoining an afflicted nerve. The nerve is cooled and deadened to relieve pain and reduce inflammation and discomfort; thus helping to heal the spine and restore movement and function. This process involves no narcotics and also is effective post-surgery if a procedure is required for your particular condition.
Other and various methods of treatment are available to help patients successfully deal with and resolve instances of spinal contusion and related orthopedic disorders. A limited regimen of bed rest may be recommended, both to heal and to prevent more extensive injury. Yet this is a limited coping mechanism, as a prolonged session of inactivity actually can worsen just about any orthopedic condition–producing bone loss and weakness. Pain medications also might be prescribed, both in the form of over the counter pain meds such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and prescribed muscle relaxants and pain medications. These, too, will only be prescribed for short time periods to prevent instances of dependence and medical addiction.
In instances of severe spinal contusions, a cast or back brace may be employed for a limited time period to aid with recovery and stability of the spine in the wake of the contusion condition. A brace can help to prevent excessive or unwanted movements that can cause additional harm to the spine.
Many patients may prefer to undergo massage therapy for spinal contusions and other orthopedic conditions. Massage, when performed thoroughly and professionally, can pack a powerful one-two punch for the orthopedic condition; enhancing the patient’s range of motion and muscular strength while alleviating the depression and tension, exhaustion and discomfort that plague the vast majority of back pain patients. Weekly half-hour massages, performed over a month or so, can do a great deal toward restoring both range of motion and muscular strength–while also performing the equally essential functions of restoring the patient’s peace of mind, relieving their anxiety and reducing their physical, emotional and physiological pain.
Exercise often is another viable option in the treatment of spinal contusions and other orthopedic issues, as physical movement succeeds in building vitality and boosting strength and flexibility. Yet the patient must be careful, however, not to actually worsen this or any back injury through a regimen of rough or overly vigorous exercise. This may not be the time to try–or, for that matter, to resume–that strenuous and excessively vigorous regimen of dance aerobics or heavy weightlifting. Opt instead for a regimen of gentle but effective stretching, as recommended by your physician and/or your exercise therapist or certified personal trainer.
In addition, some doctors may recommend walking, gentle yoga, very light weightlifting, water aerobics, chair aerobics, and rowing exercises to help patients heal and resolve instances of a spinal contusion.
Some patients might be instructed to a no activity regimen in the wake of a spinal contusion; one that involves rest and limited activity, coupled with repeated visits to one’s physician in order to monitor the progress of this or another orthopedic condition. This method, while possibly effective with less serious instances of back pain or discomfort, is likely not advisable in the instance of an orthopedic condition as severe and potentially debilitating as a spinal contusion.
If, in the wake of several months of extended and intensified attempts at spinal contusion recovery or recuperation efforts, patients find themselves experiencing the painful effects of spinal contusion (or, even worse, if their pain, discomfort, or sustained lack or limit to mobility actually worsens), then the patient and their physician might have to consider the possibility of spinal contusion surgery.
No one likes to consider this possibility, as most folks are indeed quite skittish about the possibility of any type or degree of surgery. They dread the pain and discomfort, the extended spinal contusion recovery times and time spent away from work or family, as well as any and all risks associated with different types of surgery. They dislike the idea of spending any amount of time in the hospital or even an outpatient facility and dread having to ‘go under’ for the duration of the procedure.
This is particularly true of spinal surgery, which once upon a time was particularly painful and risky. Your very range of motion and sense of health and stability seemed at risk, and the spinal contusion recovery process was known to be long and laborious, to say the least.
Yet, once again, we do have some good news for you (No, really! Please humor us and we’ll tell you). Today’s spinal contusion procedure can be quick and painless if performed by the right physician–and rest assured that if you consult Dr. Payam Moazzaz regarding your spinal contusion condition, then your spine most literally will rest in the right hands.
When you consult Dr. Payam Moazzaz, rest assured that your back will be put in the hands of a true orthopedic expert. He has achieved a decade’s worth of experience in the orthopedic field and has become an expert in the exciting field of minimally invasive surgery and its exciting newer subset, robotic spine surgery. He ranks among the first surgeons to perform robotic spine surgery via a first-generation platform that earned FDA approval in 2011; and he stands as among the first physicians to use a robotic spine surgery platform called Mazor X–a platform introduced on a national level in 2016. Dr. Moazzaz has performed more than 500 spine surgeries using robotic technology, which is the most robotic spine surgeries in the State of California. Moreover, Dr. Moazzaz is the only physician in the state of California to achieve a perfect 100 percent spine surgery record of patient recovery.
Using the very latest in cutting-edge technology, robotic surgery involves the advanced use of imagery to eliminate much of the mess and fuss of traditional surgery (to use, of course, the most technologically advanced terms possible).
The process involved with this form of spinal surgery begins several days before the actual procedure, when images are taken of the patient to generate a sort of three-dimensional image of the spine; an image used to create a blueprint for the spinal fusion surgery, pinpointing the specific areas that require the surgeon’s attention; in this instance, the bruised portion of the spine.
This advanced, minimally invasive form of spinal contusion surgery saves the patient from an excessive amount of poking and prodding (there we go with those technical medical terms again…). Armed with their detailed three-dimensional images, the surgeon inserts miniature surgical instruments through smaller incisions by way of robotic arms; permitting the surgeon an unlimited range of motion and precision.
A high-definition, three-dimensional camera guides the surgeon through the surgical procedure by way of a computerized monitor and console; and by accessing this interior view of the patient’s back, the surgeon performs every move of the surgery with the able aid of their robotic counterpart.
The advanced technology of robotic science has revolutionized the entire field of spinal contusion surgery, and even minimizes spinal contusion surgery risks. In general, this brand of spinal fusion surgery will experience a less painful surgical procedure, one involving a smaller quantity of blood loss, fewer complications, and a much faster return to regular activities via a far more abbreviated spinal contusion surgery recovery time.
Plus this singular variety of spinal contusion surgery often results in reduced instances of infection, along with less overall damage to skin, muscles, and tissue. These factors alone will help to ensure a more abbreviated surgery recovery time, and shorter hospital stay, this hopefully (if all goes well) guaranteeing that your experience after spinal contusion surgery is far more comfortable and easier to cope with–and that, as an added bonus, you will make a smoother, more expedient return to work, family, and social/recreational activities of your choosing.
The condition of spinal contusion can be painful, disruptive and even frightening to the vast majority of patients. Yet thanks to the marvels of modern technology and the expertise of physicians like Dr. Payam Moazzaz–the question of “Can you recover from a spinal contusion?” has become far easier to answer. You can indeed recover from just about any and all instances of spinal contusion, soon returning in full to an active and rewarding life. Contact New Era Spine today to arrange a consultation with Dr. Payam Moazzaz on the subject of spinal contusions.