Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a complex part of the body that is responsible for movement, feeling, and function. It sends and receives messages from the brain to the body, controlling motor, autonomic and sensory functions. Any type of spinal cord injury can have devastating consequences for a victim. It may or may not be possible to make a full recovery from a spinal cord injury. Learning more about the types of spinal cord injuries could give you greater insights into what to expect as a victim or loved one.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

An incomplete spinal cord injury means that the injury has caused partial damage to the nerves, vertebrae, fluids, disks or other elements of the spine. An incomplete spine injury generally does not cause total or permanent damage. These injuries are often treatable, but the prognosis depends on the patient’s diagnosis and health. Examples of incomplete spinal cord injuries are hairline fractures, dislocations, spinal concussions, bruises, disk herniation, spinal cord compression, and hyperextension and hyperflexion (stretched spine).

Complete Spinal Cord Injury

A complete spinal cord injury means that the damage is total and (generally) permanent. Complete spinal cord injuries often cause irreversible paralysis in the affected parts of the body. Examples of complete spinal cord injuries are paraplegia and tetraplegia. These injuries can be caused by serious fractures, a crushed spinal cord or a severed spine. Even more minor injuries, however, such as a bruised or stretched spine, could lead to some loss of function.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

The location of the spinal cord injury dictates the parts of the body that are affected. Injuries higher up on the spine are generally more severe, as they can result in disability or incapacitation from the neck down. Cervical spinal cord injuries are the most severe level. The cervical spine is the top seven vertebrae in the spinal column (numbers C-1 to C-7). These injuries affect the region above the shoulders: the head and neck area. Quadriplegia – the medical term for paralysis in all four limbs and/or the torso – may occur from a cervical spinal cord injury. Quadriplegia is the most severe form of paralysis.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury

The thoracic spine is right below the cervical spine (vertebrae T-1 to T-12). A thoracic spinal cord injury affects the chest and abdominal area. This type of injury can affect function and feeling in the arms, hands and lower extremities. It can also impact the lungs and diaphragm muscles that help you breathe. Unlike a cervical spine injury, however, thoracic spine injuries typically do not affect the head or neck.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury

The lumbar spine is the lowest portion of the spinal cord (L1-L5). It is the bottom of the spine, which supports most of the weight of the other sections. Injury or damage to the lumbar spinal cord could cause paralysis in the legs, hips, reproductive system, and/or bowel and bladder. It does not affect the upper portion of the body. This is a condition called paraplegia.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

The sacral spine describes the area above the tailbone. It is composed of five bones (S-1 to S-5) that are fused together to create a triangle shape at the bottom of the spinal cord. Sacral spinal cord injuries can affect the hips, groin area, buttocks, thighs and perineal area. It may impact the pelvic organs and/or lead to some loss of function in the hips and legs.

Legal Help for a Spinal Cord Injury Diagnosis in Arizona

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a spinal cord injury of any type or severity after an accident, consult with a personal injury lawyer in Glendale for information about your legal options. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your past and foreseeable future losses from the party that caused your accident, such as a reckless driver in an auto accident. Our attorneys can help you protect your rights throughout the legal process.