Spinal Cord Injury Basics: Types of Injuries and Their Effects

A spinal cord injury damages the nerves of the spinal cord, which is a major component of the central nervous system. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae. A sudden blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more vertebrae can result in a spinal cord injury. Additional damage may develop over the days or weeks following the initial trauma. This is due to swelling, bleeding and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States.

Spinal cord injuries are very serious. They usually result in permanent weakness, loss of sensation or paralysis to parts of the body located below the site of the injury. The degree to which the body is affected depends on two factors: the location of the injury along the spinal cord and the severity of the injury. 

Location of the Injury

  • Spinal cord injuries in the neck may cause tetraplegia or quadriplegia. Symptoms include paralysis or loss of sensation to chest, arms, bladder, bowel, legs and sexual organs.
  • Spinal cord injuries below the neck may cause paraplegia. Symptoms include weakness or paralysis in the chest, bladder, bowel, legs and sexual organs. 

Severity of the Injury

  • A complete injury means there is no sensation or voluntary movement below the level of the injury. Both sides of the body are equally affected.
  • An incomplete injury means there is some type of function, either sensation or movement, below the level of the injury. The injured person may have more sensation or movement on one side of the body than the other.

More than 250,000 Americans live with permanent paralysis of their legs, arms or both due to a spinal cord injury. According to the Center for Disease Control, 46% of spinal cord injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Have you have suffered a spinal cord injury or some other serious injury in an accident? Contact Austin truck accident lawyer David Todd at 512-472-7799 for a free consultation.  For more information, download a free copy of his book, How to Choose a Texas Truck Accident Lawyer.