Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury ...

  • usually begins with a blow that fractures or dislocates your vertebrae, the bone disks that make up your spine
  • most injuries don't sever your spinal cord
  • damage is caused when pieces of vertebrae tear into cord tissue or press down on the parts of nerves that carry signals

A spinal cord injury is either defined as complete or incomplete:


  • complete: if all feeling and motor function is lost below the neurological level


  • incomplete: if there is some motor or sensory function below the affected area

Paralysis from a spinal cord injury is referred to as:


  • Tetraplegia or quadriplegia: arms, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by your spinal cord injury
  • Paraplegia: paralysis affects all or part of legs, trunk and pelvic organs

Signs and Symptoms:



  • loss of movement
  • loss of sensation, including ability to feel heat, cold and touch
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • changes in sexual function, sensitivity and fertility
  • pain or intense stinging sensation
  • difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from lungs

Common causes of spinal cord injuries:



  • motor vehicle accidents: leading cause of spinal cord injuries, account of 40% of new cases a year
  • acts of violence: account for 15% of spinal cord injuries, often involving knife or gun wounds
  • falls: most common cause among individuals over 65
  • sports/recreation activities: especially diving into shallow water
  • alcohol: play a part in 1 out of 4 spinal cord injuries
  • diseases: cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis can also cause injuries to the spinal cord

Treatment possibilities:



  • Medication: Medrol can reduce damage to nerve cells and decrease inflammation for acute spinal cord injury when given within eight hours of injury
  • Immobilization: traction aids to stabilize the spine and bring it into proper alignment
  • Surgery: can be used to remove bone fragments compressing on the spine or stabilize the spine to prevent future pain
  • Rehabilitation: form of on-going care with physical therapists and other doctors to aid in the recovery process
  • Experimental treatments
  • There is however no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, but multiple methods of treatment and support.




  • Drive safely
  • Wear a seat belt every time you're in a vehicle
  • Don't drive while or ride with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Be safe with firearms
  • Prevent falls
  • Take precautions when playing sports
  • Check water depth, don't dive into shallow water