Spinal Cord Injury: What It Is, How It Happens, and How to Protect Your Rights

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury results in damage to the spinal cord, which inhibits communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Once sustaining damage to the spinal cord, a person’s sensory, motor, and reflex messages are all affected; these signals may not travel past the point in the spinal cord that sustained the damage. The affected person can experience either a temporary or permanent loss of function, paralysis, and loss of sensation. The resulting effects of spinal cord injuries are also directly connected to where in the spinal column the injury takes place. The vertebrae within the human spine are grouped into sections, and the higher the injury takes place within the spinal column, the more dysfunction may present as a result.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

Damage done to the cervical nerves in the spinal column is by far the most concerning because the risk of dysfunction is much greater. Injury to this section of the spine can cause the paralysis of various parts of the body, the inability to breathe on one’s own, the inability to control one’s bowel or bladder movements, and the impaired ability to speak. If the damage is significant, injuries to the cervical vertebrae can result in tetraplegia, or paralysis resulting in the partial or complete loss of use of all four limbs and the torso. Similarly, these injuries can also result in quadriplegia, which is closely related to tetraplegia, but does not affect the arms. Paralysis is generally experienced as both sensory and motor, meaning that both sensation and control are lost in the affected parts of the body. When injury to the cervical nerves is sustained, those involved may require 24-hour care and complete assistance with daily living for the duration of their lives.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury

As the thoracic nerves affect the muscles, upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal muscles, injuries sustained in this area of the spine generally affect one’s torso and legs, and will result in little to no control over one’s bowel or bladder. Severe injury to this area will often result in paraplegia, which impairs motor and/or sensory function in the lower extremities. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for affected individuals to walk with braces, but will more likely utilize a manual wheelchair.

Lumbar and Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

Injury to the lumbar and sacral nerves of the lower spine often results in some loss of function in the hips and legs, with little to no control over one’s bowel or bladder. Depending on the severity and location of the injury, it is possible that those affected may be able to walk, but others may require the assistance of braces or wheelchairs.

How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Occur?

Spinal cord injuries usually begin with a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine, which fractures or dislocates vertebrae. The moment that this occurs, there are displaced fragments of bone, disc material, or ligaments, which will bruise or tear delicate spinal cord tissue. Although the spinal cord is not normally severed, injury will often result in the fracturing and/or compression of the vertebrae. Once this happens, the nerves carrying signals from the brain to the rest of the body through the spinal column will be interrupted, and may not be able to communicate properly.

How to Protect Your Rights

The most dangerous result of spinal cord injury is paralysis, or loss of voluntary movement, usually caused by damage to the nervous system. This paralysis may only be partial, affecting one muscle or limb. The paralysis sustained as a result of a spinal cord injury may also be completely devastating, as in the case of quadriplegia or tetraplegia. If you or someone that you care about has suffered partial or total paralysis as a result of a spinal cord injury, you must learn about your rights concerning this issue by consulting a spinal cord injury attorney. Any damage to the spinal cord can be life altering, and if this injury came about as a result of negligence or wrongdoing, it is imperative that you receive compensation for the harm done. Learning more about personal injury claims involving spinal cord injury (www.spinalinjury101.org/details) and/or paralysis is imperative; it sends the message that the misconduct of an individual, a corporation, or a public entity is inexcusable.