DISEASES OF THE SPINAL CORD.
has been pointed out (p. 137) that the spinal cord consists, like the brain, of white and gray nervous matter, arranged in a particular way, and enveloped in membranes. It too has its supply of blood for its growth and vigour. The cord, consequently, will be liable to inflammations of its own sub stances, or inflammations attacking its mem branes. As similar affections attacking the membranes of the brain are called Cerebral Meningitis, so those of the spine are called Spinal Meningitis. Inflammation of the sub stance of the cord itself is called Spinal Myel itis. It is sufficient to mention these names, and quite unnecessary to detail the symptoms. The affections are not so common as to require description in a work of this kind, and besides, the determining of their presence is a work of difficulty for even skilled physicians. The dis eases are associated with pains of various kinds and with paralysis.
Inflammation of the cord, however, may be set up by injuries, or by exposure to cold and wet, and manifests itself by fever, intense pain in the back, and paralysis of the lower limbs. In such cases relief may be obtained by the use of leeches and hot applications. The paralysis may remain after the inflammation has passed away, requiring the use of blisters, friction, electricity, &c., conjoined with nerve tonics, to restore the fnnction.
Degeneration of the cord is the general cause of various kinds of paralysis. In one form of degeneration the breaking down of the nerve-cells and wasting of nerve-fibres is associated with an increased formation of other forms of cells and fine connective tissue, so that the part of the cord subject to these changes is deprived of its natural structure and becomes hardened. This condition is called sclerosis
(Greek, skleros, hard).
Congestion of the cord is usually of a chronic form, occurring in old people. It is attended by rather vague symptoms, among which are aching back and limbs, and diminished mus cular power, especially of the lower extremities. Its treatment should be conducted with fric tion to the spine, and the use of tonic medicines and nourishing food.
Spinal Irritation is a phrase of frequent use, and yet it is difficult to say whether it sig nifies any special disease.
The symptoms which are included under the phrase are various : pain or tenderness in various parts of the body, a feeling of constric tion of the chest, a sensation of a lump in the throat, cough, palpitation, and specially con stant sickness and vomiting. These occur usu ally in hysterical girls. On tapping with the knuckle down the back over the spines of the vertebras a place is reached where there is dis tinct shrinking by the patient from the stroke. On testing again by passing hot and cold sponges alternately down the spine, shrinking occurs when the sponges pass over the special spot. It is to be observed that the tenderness is invariably over a spot.
The treatment of spinal irritation consists in the application of blisters over the painful spot. Even a single blister is in many cases followed by very considerable relief. There should be added the use of nourishing food, quinine and iron tonics, rest, and change of air, the general treatment being directed to the removal of the hysterical condition, which, in most cases, is at the root of the trouble.