A spinal cord injury is any damage to any part of the spine or the nerves. An injury can cause permanent damage, which can cause changes in sensations throughout the body and bodily functions below the site of the injury. When a spinal injury occurs, the quality of life can be seriously affected.
Spinal Injury Levels
There are different levels of injuries based on what part of the spine is hurt. For instance, C1-C8 are the vertebrae of the cervical spine. C1-C4 injuries can be quite serious because injuries in this area can result in paralysis. Every aspect of life can be affected from the inability to speak to the inability to breathe without a machine. The lower cervical spine, C5 to C8, is also very sensitive in that injury here can cause issues with raising the arms, breathing may be weakened, and there may be paralysis. A person with a cervical spine injury could require assistance.
The thoracic vertebrae are in the center of the back. T1 to T12 injuries can cause issues with nerves or result in mobility issues, such as paralysis of the legs. An injury to this area of the spine isn’t as serious as an injury to the cervical spine, but intense medical intervention may still be needed.
The lumbar spine is made up of L1 to L5. An injury to this area can cause loss of function in the hips or bladder and bowel control issues. A person may need a wheelchair or braces to get around. A lot of pain can come from this area, and sciatica can be one of the consequences of a lumbar spine injury.
The lowest part of the spine contains the sacral nerves. Injuries to S1 to S5 can cause a person to lose bowel or bladder control, and loss of function can occur in the hips. A person with damage to this area can still walk, but there may be some issues.
Symptoms of Spinal Injuries
When you have experienced a spinal injury, you may lose control of your limbs, depending on where the injury is. Paralysis or mobility issues, pain, inability or difficulty breathing, difficulty grasping objects, loss of bowel and bladder control, and speech issues are also symptoms. Unfortunately, injuries to the spine can cause neurological issues. There are different levels of symptoms:
- Complete loss of motor function below the spinal cord injury.
- Incomplete loss of motor function due to having some sensory or motor function below the injured area.
- Paraplegia is the loss of sensation and movement in the trunk, legs, and pelvic region.
- Quadriplegia means that all limbs, the trunk, and the pelvic organs are affected by the injury.
A series of tests is performed to determine how complete the injury is, as well as its neurological level.
There are some emergency symptoms that indicate a doctor needs to be seen as soon as possible. If you experience a back injury and you have difficulty breathing or balance problems, your back or neck is twisted, your limbs or hands have gone numb, or you have completely lost sensation in a part of your body, it is considered an emergency.