Spinal cord injuries have a well-deserved reputation as some of the most devastating injuries a person can suffer. More than almost any other injury, damage to the spinal cord can lead to permanent, painful, and devastating symptoms and disabilities.
Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are more common than most people realize. There are multiple types of SCIs, each of which can lead to different levels of disability and suffering. Keep reading to learn how damaging the spine can permanently impact your life, how these injuries happen, and what you can do if someone else is responsible for your potentially permanent injury.
Different Types of Spinal Cord Injuries and Their Impact
Your spine is part of the fundamental structure of your body. It supports the rest of your skeleton and helps you twist, turn, and stand. It also guards the most crucial nerve cluster in your body: your spinal cord. This collection of nerves runs through the center of your spine, with individual nerves branching out to your limbs and internal organs.
Your spinal cord is how your brain transmits instructions to the rest of your body. If it’s damaged, you could experience a wide range of symptoms, from nerve pain to weakness to complete paralysis. The exact symptoms you’ll suffer depend on how and where your spine is injured.
Severities of SCIs
There are two general severity levels for SCIs: complete and incomplete. The severity determines the intensity and permanence of symptoms.
Complete injuries are the most severe. They occur when the cord is so damaged that the brain loses the ability to send any messages beyond the point of damage. As a result, the victim becomes paralyzed from the injury site down. This is sometimes referred to as a severing of the cord. Many, if not most complete SCIs are permanent.
Incomplete injuries are more variable. They reduce but don’t eliminate the brain’s ability to send messages to the body below the injured location. An incomplete SCI could lead to a minor loss of sensitivity to near-total paralyzation, depending on the person and the injury. Similarly, these injuries may heal entirely or lead to permanent impairments.
Location of Spinal Cord Injuries
The location of an SCI also matters. Healthcare professionals divide the spinal cord into three general regions. Depending on which one was injured, your symptoms may vary dramatically. These regions are:
- Lumbar spine: This is the lowest part of your spine, running from the bottom of your ribs to your pelvis. Injuries here damage your ability to feel or control your legs and pelvic muscles. Symptoms can include paralysis of the legs (paraplegia), loss of sensation, and incontinence due to loss of pelvic muscle control.
- Thoracic spine: This is the middle of your spine, running from the bottom of your ribs to your neck. Damage here can cause all the problems of a lumbar SCI, as well as loss of control and sensation in your torso. The top of the thoracic spinal cord also controls certain nerves in the arms, so high thoracic SCIs can also reduce arm and hand function.
- Cervical spine: The top of your spine runs along your neck into your brain. SCIs to the cervical spine are the most severe. They can cause tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, or complete paralysis of the body.
The intensity of any of these symptoms depends on the severity of the SCI. You can suffer a complete or incomplete SCI in any part of your spine. Your healthcare team will inform you where your SCI is and whether it appears to be complete or incomplete. Regardless of the type of injury, most people who suffer an SCI face life-long struggles with reduced mobility, nerve and back pain, and sciatica.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Your back is sturdy, but your spinal cord is not. All it takes is one tragic accident for you to suffer lifelong paralysis and pain. You can receive an SCI from things like:
- Sports injuries: Sports like football and rugby that involve tackling can cause back injuries that lead to SCIs. This is the most common cause of SCIs in young athletes.
- Car and bike accidents: High-speed accidents can generate traumatic spine injuries that crush or compress your spinal cord. Anyone can suffer an SCI in a car accident.
- Falls: Falling on a slippery walkway can fracture your vertebrae, damaging your spine. This is the most common cause of SCIs in people over 65.
You can also have an incomplete SCI aggravated into a complete SCI if you receive poor medical care. SCIs can be made worse through negligent acts such as:
- Being moved incorrectly
- Untreated inflammation and swelling after an accident
- Improper physical therapy
What You Should Do If Someone Else Caused Your Spinal Cord Injury
Many SCIs are caused by someone else hurting you. Whether you were hit by a car, slipped on a poorly maintained sidewalk, or received negligent medical care after an accident, you deserve to hold the person who caused your injury accountable. Here’s what to do.
- Get competent medical treatment immediately. If you have a back injury, always get treatment immediately. SCIs can get significantly worse without proper care. If you believe your medical team isn’t giving you appropriate care, report their behavior and request a new healthcare team.
- Collect information about the accident and your medical care. You’ll need to prove that someone was responsible for your injury if you need to press for damages. Gather information like the driver’s license plate and insurance, the business’s name and address, or the healthcare worker’s name and license number.
- Get legal help. Finally, contact an expert spinal cord injury lawyer to discuss your situation. The right attorney will help you understand your options and guide you through the process of fighting for the damages you need to recover.
Get In Touch with a Los Angeles Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
You have enough to worry about just recovering from your SCI. Get help from the experts at the Law Offices of Michael Oran, APC so you don’t have to worry about legal matters too. Schedule your consultation today to learn more.