Where do spinal cord injuries occur? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can occur at various levels along the spinal column. The spinal cord itself is a crucial part of the central nervous system, responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When an injury damages or disrupts the spinal cord’s normal functioning, it can result in a range of neurological impairments and physical disabilities. The location of the injury along the spinal cord determines the extent and severity of these effects.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries (C1-C8)

The cervical spinal cord is situated in the neck region and consists of eight cervical vertebrae, labeled as C1 to C8. Injuries to this uppermost part of the spinal cord can have significant consequences, potentially affecting the ability to breathe, move the arms and legs, and control various bodily functions. Injuries at the C1-C4 level are particularly severe and can lead to tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), which involves the loss of function in all four limbs and often requires assistance with daily activities.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injuries (T1-T12)

Below the cervical region, the thoracic spinal cord spans from T1 to T12. Injuries in this mid-back area can result in paraplegia, which affects the lower half of the body, including the legs. The specific effects and severity depend on the level of injury within this range.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries (L1-L5)

The lumbar spinal cord, situated in the lower back, includes vertebrae L1 to L5. Injuries at this level can impact mobility and lower body function, potentially causing difficulties with walking, balance, and bladder and bowel control.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injuries (S1-S5)

The sacral spinal cord is located just below the lumbar region and encompasses vertebrae S1 to S5. Injuries in this area typically affect functions related to the pelvis and lower limbs, including bowel and bladder control and sexual function.

Severity Level

The severity of a spinal cord injury is determined not only by the level of the injury but also by the degree of damage to the spinal cord tissue itself. Injuries can be classified as either complete or incomplete:

  • Complete spinal cord injury: In a complete SCI, there is a total loss of sensory and motor function below the level of the injury. This means that the individual has no sensation or voluntary movement in the affected areas.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury: In contrast, an incomplete SCI allows for some degree of sensory and/or motor function below the level of the injury. The extent of preservation of function can vary widely, ranging from minimal sensation and movement to near-normal function.

Spinal cord injuries can result from various causes, including traumatic incidents such as falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and acts of violence. Timely medical intervention and rehabilitation are crucial for individuals with spinal cord injuries to maximize their recovery and regain as much function as possible.

The management of spinal cord injuries often involves a multidisciplinary approach, with healthcare professionals such as neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and rehabilitation specialists working together to develop tailored treatment plans.

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, contact a Virginia Beach personal injury attorney to find out what legal options you may have.