Being hurt in an accident can lead to a broad range of different types of injuries. Depending on the diagnosis from a doctor, the different types of spinal cord injuries can have life-lasting repercussions for a victim. A spinal cord injury need to be diagnosed immediately with the help of a medical professional to give the injured party the best possible opportunity to recover in full.
In many cases, the diagnosis of a spinal cord injury will make it difficult or impossible altogether for the person to return to work ever again. Significant adjustments to their day to day life in addition to rehabilitation, surgery and other medical treatments may be associated with many types of spinal cord injuries.
This is because of the delicate nature of the spinal cord and the important role it plays in supporting the human body. According to research, more than 12,500 spinal cord injuries are diagnosed every single year. This leaves the diagnosed party and their family members to deal with the fallout from a catastrophe. A patient needs to be prepared to speak up for his or her interests, both with regard to medical care and a lawsuit. Understanding how spinal cord injuries work and how this can affect your life can make it easier to recover as much as possible from an accident. In some cases, the maximum medical improvement may not include full recovery from the injuries. In these circumstances, an injured party may be eligible to pursue a legal claim against the responsible party, if the accident was caused by negligence.
Understanding Spinal Cord Anatomy
The spinal cord is a column of nerves that have 31 separate vertebrae inside. Four unique regions are used to break down the spinal cord and depending on where your injury was diagnosed, can influence your ability to recover and impact your day to day life.
The cervical spinal cord is the topmost portion that relates to a vertebra. The thoracic spinal cord is the middle of this important section of your back including twelve vertebrae. The lumbar spinal cord is where the spinal cord begins to bend including five lumbar vertebrae. The sacral spine is the triangle shaped lower section of the spine that has five vertebrae. Finally, the coccygeal region may also be referred to as tailbone and is only one vertebra.
The Two Primary Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Every spinal cord injury falls into one of two categories, complete or incomplete. Complete injuries happen once the spinal cord is severed in full. Some physical therapy and treatment may make it possible for a victim to recover some function, but usually, the function is eliminated entirely. In an incomplete injury, the spinal cord experiences a partial severing. The degree of the person’s function following an incomplete spinal cord injury depends on the extent of the injuries. Several of the most frequent types of partial or incomplete spinal cord injuries include:
- Central cord syndrome: which is damage to the center of the cord leading to partial impairment, paralysis of the arms, paralysis of the legs and loss of fine motor skills.
- Interior cord syndrome: This occurs to the front of the spinal cord and damages the sensory pathways and the motor pathways in the spinal cord. It may be difficult for a person who has been diagnosed with this injury to move regularly.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome: This injury has to do with damaged one column of the spinal cord and movement on that side may be difficult.
Other types of common spinal cord injury include:
- Triplegia: which means loss of movement and sensation in one arm or in both legs usually the result of an incomplete spinal cord injury.
- Paraplegia: which happens when the movement and sensation are eliminated from the lower half of the body such as the legs. These injuries are typically more pronounced when they are located more closely to the top vertebra.
- Tetraplegia: This is the most severe type of damage to the cervical spinal cord, which eliminates the ability to move below the site of the injury, causing problems with respiration, bowel, and bladder control.
Identifying the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Identifying when someone has suffered a spinal cord injury can help to get the appropriate care for that person and increase their chances of maximum recovery. Some of the most common spinal cord injuries symptoms include:
- Loss of fertility
- Changes in personality or mood
- Chronic pain
- Bed Sores
- Difficulty with bowel and bladder function
- Frequent infection
- Difficulty breathing
- Degrees of paralysis
- Chronic muscle pain
- Nerve pain
All of these situations are serious and require the assistance of an experienced medical professional.
If you’re not yet sure whether or not you have suffered a spinal cord injury, take care not to be moved. If you arrive on the scene of a car accident or something similar, the same guidelines apply. Trying to move someone who may have sustained a spinal cord injury can make the situation much worse and more dangerous.
Getting medical help is extremely important in these situations as it can help to minimize the chances that a dangerous situation becomes life-threatening. Moving a person who has a spinal cord injury could lead to devastating consequences including paralysis.
Anyone who feels unable to move or is reporting severe back pain should be taken seriously. Not following up with a medical professional or going to the hospital could exacerbate the situation and make things much harder for the victim in recovery.
After being diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, the patient should receive a customized treatment plan from a doctor. This can include years of physical therapy and exercises, but in some cases, the person may never experience feeling in their affected limbs again. While modern medicine is always improving with regard to the research surrounding spinal cord injuries and the treatments available, a person who has been seriously affected will have to adjust to many new aspects of their life in this difficult time.
My sister was born with a Tethered Spinal Cord that went undiagnosed for the first ten years of her life. I remember going in and out of hospitals with her, watching her writhe in pain as she had multiple doctors tell her and our parents that she was just experiencing “growing pains.” It wasn’t until she was close to paralysis from her waist down, at 11 years old, that our family was finally given the truth about her condition. Today, my sister’s fine, and she takes more Instagram photos than most 28-year old women, but her severe condition going unnoticed for over a decade was a case of medical malpractice.
While she’s seen a chiropractor and has begun to finally feel relief, she’s spent her entire life suffering from incontinence, along with excruciating pain in her lower back and her legs – pain, mind you, that feels like she’s finished first place in a 25-mile long marathon. She’s in constant pain from sitting down, standing, walking, and sometimes doing nothing at all. So often, it’s hard to think that any sort of medical malpractice case or spinal cord injury will affect you personally, but when it does, it makes you want to share your story and help someone else along the way.
Be sure to check this article out on Medium, too.