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Spinal Cord Injuries Come in Different Types

Over 250,000 Americans are living with spinal cord injuries and approximately 11,000 new spinal cord injuries occur each year. Spinal cord injuries are serious and life changing, but it is possible for patients to go on living an active, productive life.


Traumatic spinal cord injuries result from a sudden force or blow to your spine that either fractures, dislocates or compresses one or many of the spinal vertebrae and/or discs.

One of the most common cause of spinal cord injuries is motor vehicle accidents, which cause more than 40 percent of new injuries every year.

Accidental falls are common cause of spinal cord injuries for people over age 65, but can also affect younger people.

Sports-related accidents are another common cause of spine injuries. Alcohol impairment is also a contributing factor in many cases of spinal cord injury.


Spinal cord injuries are classified in two ways: the level of neurological damage and the level of completeness of the injury.

The neurological level of a spinal cord injury is the lowest segment of the spine that still has normal functioning.

Quadriplegics have lost functioning in their arms, trunk, legs and pelvic area. Paraplegics have lost functioning in all or only parts of the trunk, legs and pelvic area.

An injury is complete when all feeling and movement is lost below the neurological level. An incomplete spinal cord injury is when one has some movement and feeling below the injured area.

Physicians will conduct a series of tests to determine the type and extent of a spinal cord injury. This is why a physician will order immobilization of the spine based on suspicions that there may be a serious injury.


Spinal cord injuries of any type may also lead to a number of symptoms. These symptoms can include but are not limited to loss of bladder and/or bowel control, exaggerated reflexes, changes in sexual functioning, pain or stinging sensations, and respiration problems.

If you have been in an accident and have not been examined by a physician, there are certain signs that could signify a spinal cord injury. These emergency symptoms include intense back or neck pain, weakness or paralysis, numbness or tingling in the extremities, difficulty keeping your balance and impaired breathing.