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Types of spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most catastrophic events the human body can endure. Victims and their families need to learn as much as they can about the spinal cord to understand their treatment options, ask the appropriate questions of their doctors and know what to expect for the future.

Here are some of the basics:

1. Spinal cord injuries are divided into two primary categories:

  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries — These occur when the nerves in the spinal cord are only partially severed, allowing the victim to retain some level of functioning.
  • Complete spinal cord injuries — These occur when the spinal cord is totally severed and generally eliminate any function the victim may have relative to the point of injury.

There are variations in incomplete spinal cord injuries, based on whether the damage occurs to the front, center or a single side of the cord. Each presents its own unique symptoms and problems for the patient.

2. Four different regions of the spine can be affected by injuries.

The location of your spinal cord injury also makes a big difference in what sort of impairment you may be facing. The spinal column is divided up in the following way:

  • Cervical — The topmost part of the spinal column, supporting the head. This area is referred to as C1-C8 after the eight vertebrae involved. Damage here can lead to full paraplegia.
  • Thoracic — This is the middle of the spinal column, containing 12 vertebrae that are labeled T1-T12. Injuries here can affect the victim’s chest, back and abdomen.
  • Lumbar — This is the lower part of the back and involves just five vertebrae, labeled L1-L5. Injuries here affect a victim’s hips and legs.
  • Sacral — This is where the nerves exit the spinal cord. Injuries here affect the victim’s hips, thighs, buttocks and pelvic organ functioning.

The wide-ranging possibilities for disability following a spinal cord injury of any kind are immense. Recovery is a lifelong process. If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury, find out everything you can about your medical condition — and your legal options.