Neurosurgeon Questions Back Injuries

Can a back injury cause neurological defects?

I am a 30 year old woman and I had a severe back injury due to an accident 3 months back. I now feel like I am lacking hand and legs coordination. Could the back injury cause neurological defects in a person? Please advice.

11 Answers

A low back injury would not affect your upper body, arms, or hands unless there was concurrent cervical spine injury or head injury. This calls for a complete neurological exam to find the cause of your complaints.
Yes, that is absolutely possible. It is very important that you have that evaluated by a medical doctor.
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A spinal injury can certainly cause neurologic deficits. If you are having symptoms in your arms and legs, there may be a problem in your cervical spine. If your symptoms are only in the legs, you may have a problem more likely in your lower lumbar spine, or less commonly in your thoracic spine.

If your symptoms have persisted since your accident three months ago, I would recommend seeing your primary care physician and possibly being referred to a neurological surgeon. You may require MRI imaging and plain film X-rays to further evaluate your spinal condition.


Jason E. Garber, MD, FAANS, FACS
It would be best to see your neurologist soon for examination and imaging
Well, it depends on what the severe back injury is. If you had a severe back injury, I am assuming you went to either the ER or saw a doctor. Depending on the severity of the trauma, you could have an injury to the area of the spine. I would recommend having an MRI of the cervical spine; if there is an injury of the spinal cord in the neck, then your arm and leg coordination can get affected. Prior to ordering an MRI, a doctor should examine you and see if the coordination problems are related to the cervical spine, and order that study to confirm a diagnosis.

Best regards
Yes it may cause neurological deficits. If there are problems with motor control of the hands and legs then the cervical spine should be evaluated for spinal cord injury or compression. The cervical spine can easily be evaluated by an MRI.
An isolated back injury such as a fracture or herniated disk can cause a neurological deficit but it would affect the legs only, not the hands.
It can, but it will affect your legs and possibly bowel or bladder issues. For it to affect your arms, too, the injury has to be higher up in the spine, that is, in your neck, but depending on the injury, if you have any sensory or motor symptoms, you should get your family doctor to check on this and possibly get an MRI of your spine to make sure you don't have a disc herniation, for example.
Yes there may be problems of instability or stenosis in the cervical spine
To answer your general question, yes, a back injury can certainly cause neurological defects but without knowing the specifics of the extent of your injury, what part of your "back" was affected it is impossible to give a more specific answer. I suggest that you have an evaluation by a neurologist or neurosurgeon to better define the type and extent of your neurological defects and what their likely cause might be.
I'm assuming that what you mean by "back injury" is an injury to the lumbar (lower back) spine. In general, a lumbar spine injury could not cause neurologic problems with the hands or arms. It is possible for lumbar spine injuries to cause weakness, numbness in the legs and trouble walking. Such injuries may also cause trouble controlling bowel/bladder function.

The best way to proceed here would be first to see your doctor to obtain a full history and neurologic exam. If neurologic deficits are found (weakness, sensory loss, etc.), then imaging studies (CT/MR scans) might be appropriate.

But the simple answer to your question is a lumbar spine injury would not cause problems with the hands.
Yes, back injury can certainly cause a neurological deficit. Lower back is more likely to cause leg symptoms (such as leg/foot pain and weakness, foot drop, etc.). Neck is more likely to cause arm symptoms (pain and/or weakness in your arm or hand grip). You should consider getting an MRI and following up with a specialist if it shows anything of concern. However, be mindful that lack of coordination and weakness can also be caused by other problems somewhere else in the body and you should really be fully evaluated by a doctor to pinpoint where the problem may be coming from.