The spinal cord is a critically important part of the body. It carries messages between the body and the brain and is responsible for movement, function and feeling. The spinal cord can sustain serious damage in an accident such as a car crash, fall or sports incident. The symptoms experienced and the patient’s prognosis will depend on the type of spinal cord injury suffered.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
An incomplete spinal cord injury is one that only partially, not fully, interferes with the spinal cord’s ability to convey messages to and from the brain. With an incomplete spinal cord injury, the messaging system is not completely damaged. Instead, some of the nerves remain intact. The victim may still retain some feeling and function below the point of injury that may improve over time with treatment.
Complete Spinal Cord Injury
A complete spinal cord injury describes damage to the spine that completely eliminates the spinal cord’s ability to transfer messages to and from the brain. With a complete spinal cord injury, the victim will most likely lose all motor and sensory function below the level of injury. Although physical therapy and rehabilitation can improve a patient’s prognosis, it is not possible to fully recover from a complete spinal cord injury.
A spinal concussion is a spinal cord injury that will typically heal in a matter of days. It describes blunt force trauma to the spine. The most common victims of spinal concussions are football players. The symptoms of spinal compression may include tingling, numbness and burning in the extremities (neurological symptoms) for a few days.
Spinal Cord Fracture
A spinal cord fracture is a serious injury that describes a break or crack in one or more of the bones that make up the spinal column (vertebrae). A spinal cord fracture can cause severe or chronic pain, as well as an incomplete spinal cord injury with neurological symptoms.
If the spine is completely severed in an accident, this type of fracture can cause a complete spinal cord injury with paralysis. A severe fracture to the wrong part of the back, such as the cervical spine, could be deadly.
Four Levels of Spinal Cord Injury
When diagnosing a spinal cord injury, a physician will reference the part of the spine damaged. This is an important distinction, as different parts of the spine are responsible for controlling different parts of the body. The spinal cord is divided into four main regions:
- The top eight vertebrae of the spine (C1-C8). Injuries to the cervical spine can cause quadriplegia, or paralysis in all four limbs and the trunk.
- The thoracic spine is comprised of 12 vertebrae (T1-T12) that control the bottom half of the body. An injury here can cause paraplegia.
- L1 through L5 are the five vertebrae that make up the lumbar spine. Injuries to the lumbar spine can cause weakness or paralysis in the legs, as well as loss of bowel or bladder control.
- The bottom five vertebrae (S1-S5) are the sacral spine region. An injury to this part of the spine can cause weakness or paralysis in the legs, sexual dysfunction, and loss of bowel/bladder control.
Most spinal cord injuries affect the body from the level of injury down. Each case is unique, however, with different prognoses for each patient based on the specific type of damage and injury.
Other Types of Back Injuries
The spinal cord is a complex organ with thousands of nerves that can suffer different types of injuries in accidents. Other common types of spinal cord injuries include:
- Soft-tissue injuries
- Muscle strains or sprains
- Slipped disks
- Herniated or burst disks
If you suffer any type of spinal cord injury in an accident in Omaha, consult with a spinal cord injury lawyer for assistance. You may be eligible for compensation.