Auto accidents, falls, and other traumatic events can cause injury to the spine. Injury can be caused by blunt force trauma (e.g., parts of the body striking the interior of the car) and/or by abnormal movement of the spine caused by collision forces. The spine is referred to in three segments: cervical (neck); lumbar (low back); and thoracic (between the cervical and lumbar).
The spine provides the vertical structure and support for the body and also acts as the conduit for the spinal cord which runs from the brain down through the spine with nerve roots branching off at every level of vertebrae and running to every part of the body. Electro-chemical signals are sent back and forth from every part of the body to and from the brain. The proper functioning of the brain and the body are dependent upon these signals being transmitted correctly. Also, these signals provide us with useful information (e.g., The stove is hot. Move your hand!). When a part of the spine is injured, signals – including the feeling of pain – are transmitted to the brain. The body, in conjunction with the brain, then reacts in various ways to protect us (e.g., immobilization: when the neck is injured, the neck muscles may not let us move our neck very much until it is healed sufficiently to resume normal movements).