Spine Care

Non-Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury


Spinal cord injuries or SCI’s don’t just happen from intense force/high-energy trauma like hard falls or auto accidents. Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries are more common. However, traumatic spinal cord injuries tend to get the most attention. This can cause problems as it can delay treatment for individuals with a non-traumatic injury. Awareness is vital because spinal cord disorders tend to not get recognized for their impact on overall health.

Non-traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries is an umbrella term that includes several disorders, like:

  • Degenerative cervical myelopathy
  • Degenerative spondylosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Paget’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Metastatic cancer
  • Developmental disorders like Spina Bifida and cerebral palsy
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Friedreich’s ataxia

Understanding these disorders helps determine a correct diagnosis. Degenerative cervical myelopathy or DCM is the most common form of a non-traumatic spinal cord injury. It is a slow progressive injury that causes continued compression usually brought on by spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the spine’s joints. DCM can have a devastating effect on the quality of life if not diagnosed and treated as it can have a ripple effect by raising the risk of falls, leading to a traumatic spinal cord injury. Being aware can help in preventing the damage.

Other Causes and Complications

Other causes for non-traumatic spinal cord injury include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Blood supply loss to the spinal cord
  • Compression from a tumor or blood clot
  • Infection
  • Spinal abscess
  • Atherosclerosis

One of the most significant risk factors is age. This is due to an increased risk of conditions like osteoarthritis and hypertension as individuals get older, which is why individuals with a non-traumatic spinal cord injury are, on average, older than individuals that suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury. Weakness, instability, and loss of muscle control are common complications that can develop as the non-traumatic spinal cord injury progresses. Other complications that can present include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Constipation
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Impotence
  • Pressure ulcers/bed sores if immobilized
  • Possible blood clots that can lead to deep vein thrombosis
  • Depression and anxiety


With a traumatic spinal cord injury, treatment depends on the severity of the injury. With non-traumatic spinal cord injuries, treatment depends on what type of condition is involved. The primary treatment for non-traumatic spinal cord injuries typically involves various forms of rehabilitation to minimize further damage to the spinal cord. Surgery may be necessary if the spine needs to be decompressed.

Body Composition

Extracellular Water and Intracellular Water

Extracellular Water – ECW

  • Extracellular is the water located outside the body’s cells.
  • The water in the blood falls into this category.
  • Around 1/3 of the body’s fluid is attributed to ECW, and this water is found in the interstitial fluid, transcellular fluid, and blood plasma.
  • This water is important because:
  • It helps control the movement of electrolytes.
  • Allows oxygen delivery to the cells.
  • Clears waste from metabolic processes.

Intracellular Water – ICW

  • Intracellular is the water located inside the body’s cells.
  • It comprises 70% of the cytosol, which is a mix of water and other dissolved elements.
  • It makes up the other 2/3 of the water inside the body.
  • Intracellular water is important because:
  • It helps in cellular processes.
  • Allows molecules to be transported to the different organelles inside the cell.
  • Picks up where the extracellular water leaves off by continuing the pathway for fuel/energy to be transported to the cells.

Badhiwala, Jetan H et al. “Degenerative cervical myelopathy – update and future directions.” Nature reviews. Neurology vol. 16,2 (2020): 108-124. doi:10.1038/s41582-019-0303-0

Handbook of Clinical Neurology (2012) “Spinal Cord Injury.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/non-traumatic-spinal-cord-injury

Milligan, James et al. “Degenerative cervical myelopathy: Diagnosis and management in primary care.” Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien vol. 65,9 (2019): 619-624.

Related Post

Physical Management in Neurological Rehabilitation (2004) “Spinal cord injury.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/non-traumatic-spinal-cord-injury

Post Disclaimer & Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Non-Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.

We are here to help you and your family.


Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*

Dr Alex Jimenez

Welcome-Bienvenido's to our blog. We focus on treating severe spinal disabilities and injuries. We also treat Sciatica, Neck and Back Pain, Whiplash, Headaches, Knee Injuries, Sports Injuries, Dizziness, Poor Sleep, Arthritis. We use advanced proven therapies focused on optimal mobility, health, fitness, and structural conditioning. We use Individualized Diet Plans, Specialized Chiropractic Techniques, Mobility-Agility Training, Adapted Cross-Fit Protocols, and the "PUSH System" to treat patients suffering from various injuries and health problems. If you would like to learn more about a Doctor of Chiropractic who uses advanced progressive techniques to facilitate complete physical health, please connect with me. We focus on simplicity to help restore mobility and recovery. I'd love to see you. Connect!

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