Spinal Cord Injury Guide: Types, Symptoms & Causes - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

Spinal Cord Injury Guide: Types, Symptoms & Causes

Your spinal cord is a vital body part that connects your brain to your legs, arms, and other parts of the body. Without it, you lose the power of voluntary movement, and your body becomes increasingly susceptible to additional injuries and complications. Our spinal cord injury guide serves as a resource for understanding basic spinal cord injury facts and explaining your options when such an injury occurs because of another party’s fault during an accident.

The Difference Between Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

The first step in understanding spinal cord injuries is knowing how doctors generally distinguish them into two categories: complete and incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury is one that completely stops the brain from being able to communicate with the body parts located below the injury. In comparison, an incomplete spinal cord injury damages the connection between the brain and other areas of the body’s nervous system. The result is a potential spectrum of wide-ranging effects that reduce your sensory and motor function.

Spinal cord injuries are either complete or incomplete, and doctors further classify them based on their location.

What Are the Most Common Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?

The most common types of spinal cord injuries get their names based on where the injury occurs (i.e., complete or incomplete). Here are some important facts about spinal cord injury name types and what they mean:

  • Brown-Sequard syndrome: A type of spinal cord injury where the damage occurs on one side of the body, causing that side to lose function.
  • Tetraplegia (Quadriplegia): An injury to the cervical part of the spinal cord that results in paralysis of all limbs.
  • Paraplegia: A spinal cord injury to the thoracic spine that causes loss of sensation and movement in the lower half of your body
  • Anterior cord syndrome: An injury to the front of the spinal cord that damages your sensory pathways and has varying degrees of damage to your motor function depending on the severity. In some cases, you may still have some feeling in your extremities.
  • Central cord syndrome: An injury to the center of the cord that often results in arm paralysis and varying levels of leg impairment that are sometimes less severe.
  • Triplegia: An incomplete spinal cord injury that causes loss of function in your legs and at least one of your arms.

Where Do Most Spinal Cord Injuries Occur?

Spinal injuries are most common in the upper part of the back, specifically the cervical and thoracic regions (i.e., C1-T12).

The most apparent symptoms of a spinal cord injury are paralysis or weakened sensation in parts of your body below the injury location.

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Problem?

Many different symptoms can point to a possible spinal cord injury, with some being more apparent than others. Amongst others, these symptoms could include:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control and function
  • Paralysis of any magnitude
  • Breathing troubles
  • Headaches
  • Nerve pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Pneumonia and infections
  • Decreased sexual function and libido
  • Changes in mood or personality

How Can You Test for the Severity of a Spinal Cord Injury?

Determining the severity of a spinal cord injury will require professional evaluation from a physician. They will likely perform a combination of clinical observation testing (e.g., pain, sensory and movement ability, etc.) along with imaging to see the spine internally (e.g., x-rays, MRIs, etc.).

What Is the Neurological Assessment for a Spinal Cord Injury?

The ASIA or ISCOS Impairment Scale is the spinal cord injury guide for classifying the severity of a person’s injury and monitoring its progression or regression. The scale classifies spinal cord injuries into five grades, ranging from Grade A to Grade E, with Grade A being the most severe. The meaning behind each grade is as follows:

  • Grade A: You have total loss of motor and sensory function below the location of the injury.
  • Grade B: You still have limited sensation below the location of the injury, but still lack motor function.
  • Grade C: You have some muscle movement below the injury, but only 50% or less of your muscles can move against gravity.
  • Grade D: You can move more than 50% of your muscles located below the injury against gravity.
  • Grade E: Your neurological function returns fully (i.e., sensory and movement).

Can You Fully Recover from a Spinal Cord Injury?

No treatment exists to fully recover from a spinal cord injury by reversing the initial damage. Instead, treatment activities center around proactively preventing further injury to the spinal cord and helping people learn to cope with their SCI. This is done by strengthening unaffected body areas and other rehabilitation exercises.

Secondary complications like osteoporosis and pneumonia can make life especially difficult for a spinal cord injury survivor.

Are There Any Secondary Complications of a Spinal Cord Injury?

The above graph shows a lower life expectancy for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries.
The above graph shows a lower life expectancy for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries.

Secondary complications are common with spinal cord injuries because of their impact on a vital bodily function—transmitting information to and from the brain to the rest of the body. Some of these complications could include:

  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Orthostatic hypertension
  • Bone fractures (a tertiary complication of osteoporosis that a spinal cord injury victim may develop).
  • DVT and pulmonary embolisms
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Bladder or kidney stones
  • Septicemia

How Are TBI and Spinal Cord Injuries Linked?

The physical connection between your brain and spine means a link between TBI and spinal cord injuries can exist. Depending on the source of the trauma, it’s possible to have both a TBI and spinal cord injury, especially where the two parts of the body meet at the neck area. At the very least, you may have an overlap in symptoms with a TBI and a spinal cord injury, such as headaches or changes in mood.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries in the United States?

Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are the types of activities you would normally expect to result in injury. These causes often involve collisions, heavy equipment, and a lack of protection that make you susceptible to sustaining an injury. For example:

  • Roadway accidents involving any combination of motor vehicles, motorcycles, cyclists, or pedestrians
  • Falls
  • Medical and surgical complications
  • Penetrating wounds (e.g., gunshot or stabbing)

What happens to a Person if Their Spinal Cord Is Damaged in an Accident?

As explained above, a spinal cord injury from an accident can result in a broad range of complications. Paralysis and loss of feeling can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to return to life as it were before. You may have a permanent disability that removes you from your chosen career, keeps you from your favorite activities, jeopardizes your independence, and impacts your family. Depending on the nature of the accident, you may have legal claims against those responsible for your spinal cord injury because of their negligence or other wrongful actions.

Auto accidents and falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are serious ailments that cause disability, decreased life expectancy, and other impacts on your quality of life that may entitle a person to compensation.

Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney After a Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injuries generally have a permanently negative effect on your quality of life. As mentioned, recovery options are about learning to cope with your body’s new condition, and no treatment exists to return your body to the state it was in before the spinal cord injury.

An attorney can be an essential resource in pursuing financial compensation from those responsible for your spinal cord injury. They take the burden of managing your case, so you can focus on your rehabilitation and adjusting your life after the accident. Amongst other key functions, attorneys help in the following ways:

  • Administering your legal claims (e.g., filing a lawsuit, communicating with parties at fault or their attorneys, etc.)
  • Advocating for your interests in court before a judge during the hearing or to a jury during a trial
  • Advising on the strengths or weaknesses of a proposed settlement

Need Further Understanding of Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuits?

Our personal injury firm and its attorneys dedicate their life’s work to helping victims of avoidable accidents who suffer from spinal cord injuries, among other medical conditions. We strongly believe in bringing attention to detail and preparation to the table when representing our clients. These attributes allow us to take an aggressive litigation approach that aims to achieve the goal of our clients in a personal injury matter.

Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys about legal recourse options for your spinal cord injury by calling (800) 310-1606.

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