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Part 46

In cases of displacement backward along the vertebrae, it does not often happen, in fact, it is very rare, that one or more vertebrae are torn from one another and displaced. For such injuries do not readily occur, as the spine could not easily be displaced backward but by a severe injury on the fore part through the belly (which would prove fatal), or if a person falling from a height should pitch on the nates, or shoulders (and even in this case he would die, but not immediately); and it also would not readily happen that such a displacement could take place [p. 242]forward, unless some very heavy weight should fall upon it behind; for each of the posterior spinal processes is so constructed, that it would sooner be broken than undergo any great inclination forward from a force which would have to overcome the ligaments and the articulations mutually connecting them. And the spinal marrow would suffer, if from the displacement of a vertebra it were to be bent even to a small extent; for the displaced vertebra would compress the spinal marrow, if it did not break it; and if compressed and strangled, it would induce insensibility of many great and important parts, so that the physician need not give himself any concern about rectifying the displacement of the vertebra, accompanied, as it is, by many other ill consequences of a serious nature. It is evident, then, that such a case could not be reduced either by succussion or by any other method, unless one were to cut open the patient, and then, having introduced the hand into one of the great cavities, were to push outward from within, which one might do on the dead body, but not at all on the living. Wherefore, then, do I write all this? Because certain persons fancy that they have cured patients in whom the vertebra had undergone complete dislocation forward. Some, indeed, suppose that this is the easiest of all these dislocations to be recovered from, and that such cases do not stand in need of reduction, but get well spontaneously. Many are ignorant, and profit by their ignorance, for they obtain credit from those about them. These are deceived in this way, for they suppose the spinous processes to be the vertebrae themselves, because every one of them appears round to the touch, not knowing that these bones are processes from the vertebrae, as formerly stated; but the vertebrae are at a considerable distance before them; for of all animals, man, in proportion to his bulk, has the belly (internal cavity?) the narrowest from behind to before, especially at the breast. When, therefore, any of these processes are severely fractured, whether one or more, the part there appears lower than on either side, and for that reason they are deceived, supposing that the vertebrae are displaced inward. And the attitudes of the patient contribute also to deceive them; for if they attempt to put themselves into a bent position, they [p. 243]are pained, from the skin being stretched at the seat of the injury, and at the same time the fragments of the bones wound the skin still more; but if they bend forward, they feel easier, for the skin at the wound is thus relaxed, and the bones are less disposed to hurt them; and if touched, they shrink and bend forward, and the part which is touched appears empty and soft. All the circumstances now mentioned contribute to deceive the physician. Such patients speedily get well without any bad effects, for callus readily forms in all such bones as are porous.

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