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The Vertebral Column: How Certain Injuries Affect Certain Areas

a man holding his back in pain

The vertebral column is an essential part of the human body, providing essential support and mobility to our skeletal systems. It is composed of 33 vertebrae that are divided into four distinct regions:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar
  • Sacral

Each region is responsible for a different type of movement or support, and damage to any of these areas can result in unique injuries. Let’s take a closer look at how certain damages can affect different areas of the spine.

Cervical Region (Neck)

The cervical region starts at the base of the skull and extends down to the thoracic region. This area contains seven vertebrae known as C1 through C7, which allow for a wide range of movement involving your neck flexors and extensors. Injuries in this area can include:

  • Neck strains or sprains from whiplash or car accidents
  • Serious issues such as spinal cord injuries from falls or trauma

The higher on the vertebral column an injury is, the more severe the consequences are. Thus, the higher an injury is located on the cervical spine, the more likely that injury is to be fatal. Cervical spine injuries often result in paralysis of some type.

Thoracic Region (Upper Back)

This region consists of twelve vertebrae known as T1 through T12, which provide stability by connecting the rib cage to the rest of the spine and forming a protective corset around your vital organs. Signs and symptoms associated with thoracic spinal cord injury may include:

  • Radiating pain in the arms, legs or around the rib cage from the back toward the front of the chest.
  • Decreased strength and sensation in the legs
  • Decreased feeling in the genital and rectal areas
  • Difficulty controlling urine or stool
  • Fever and pain in the lower back

Injuries to the T1 through T5 nerves affect the nerves and muscles that control the rib cage, lungs and other muscles that allow you to breathe. T6 through T12 injuries affect back muscles and abdominal muscles important for balance.

Lumbar Region (Lower Back)

The lumbar region contains five vertebrae known as L1 through L5, which bear most of our body weight when we stand upright. Damage to this area usually results in some sort of loss of function in the hips or legs. Injuries here can be caused by:

  • Heavy lifting with improper form or equipment
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Surgical complications

Symptoms may include lower back pain radiating down into one’s legs, difficulty standing up straight after sitting for extended periods of time, feeling stiff when getting out of bed in the morning—or even sciatica if discs become herniated in this area due to prolonged sitting or stressful events.

Sacral Region (Sacrum)

The sacral region is made up of five vertebrae that form the base of the spine and attach to our pelvis. This area helps transfer weight from the upper body to the hips, allowing us to stand upright. The sacrum also contains the sacroiliac joints, which can be injured or weakened. Each pair of nerves in the sacral region performs a different function and can be uniquely affected by an injury:

  • S1 - Hips and groin region
  • S2 - Back of the thighs
  • S3 - Buttocks
  • S4 and S5 - Perineal area

Common signs and symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction include pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips and legs. The pain is often exacerbated by movement, such as standing up from a seated position or walking.

Catastrophic Injury Attorneys in San Francisco, CA

At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, we understand how devastating a spinal cord injury can be. If you or a loved one have suffered from any type of vertebral column damage due to an accident, our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you seek the compensation you need for medical bills and other costs associated with your injury.

Contact us today at (415) 940-7176 to learn more about what we can do for you.