It is common knowledge that spinal cord injuries can leave a person partially or completely paralyzed, depending on the location and severity of the injury. But what is the spinal cord and why is it so important?
The human body is a complex network of bones, muscles and organs that work together well mainly because of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain is where everything is processed, much like the central processing unit (CPU) in a computer system. However, for the body to function, the brain has to send signals. This is where the spinal cord comes in.
The spinal cord is the interface between the brain and the body, much like the monitor in your system. It delivers the signal to the parts of the body that require it so that it can function according to what the brain wants. It is also the receptor of what the body is feeling, providing the input to the brain for processing. In that sense, the spinal cord also functions as the keyboard, which we use for input.
In appearance, the spinal cord is a white and gray cord-like structure that is between 40 and 50 cm long. It is encased in protective bone called vertebrae. The spinal cord is made up of 31 pairs of spinal nerves which are in turn made up of motor and sensory nerve fibers. It is divided into the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral regions.
Aside from carrying information to and from the body and the brain, the spinal cord also coordinates reflex actions. A reflex is the automatic, instinctive, involuntary response of the body to stimuli. It is information that gets to the spinal cord and stays in the spinal cord; it never reaches the brain for processing. There is no equivalent for this function in a computer system. The reflex action is important for survival because it reacts instantly to potentially harmful situations. An example of a reflex is flinching away from a source of extreme heat.
Because the spinal cord is essential for normal functioning and survival, injuries that render it inoperative will definitely have a devastating and permanent effect. If negligence of a third party is the cause of spinal cord injury, consult with a personal injury lawyer at once. You won’t get your life back, but it can make it a lot easier.