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What are the Different Types of Spinal Injury?

By K T Solis
Updated May 17, 2024
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When a person suffers a spinal injury, the spinal cord becomes damaged. This causes full or partial paralysis. Not all patients have the same level of injury. Patients can experience one of two types of spinal cord injuries. One kind is referred to as a complete spinal cord injury, while the other kind is called an incomplete spinal cord injury.

The spinal cord works in conjunction with the brain to control the body's nervous system. The spinal cord is comprised of long nerves that convey messages to the brain and the rest of the body. When the spinal cord experiences trauma, the vertebra may become crushed, compressed, fractured, or dislocated. As a result, the body loses the ability to move and feel sensations. Those who suffer this type of injury often must use a wheelchair. Some patients may retain a small amount of movement and are able to use special mobility equipment to help them walk.

A spinal injury can result from a serious fall, injury, or car accident. People who have suffered a knife or gunshot wound are also at risk of spinal injury. Some people may even suffer from a spinal cord injury when they are afflicted with diseases such as spina bifida, arthritis, or polio.

Spinal injuries vary in seriousness, according to the type of injury sustained. Complete spinal cord injury is the more serious of the two spinal injury categories. When a person suffers a complete spinal cord injury, he or she is unable to move or experience sensation in the body parts that are located beneath the point of injury. If a patient experiences incomplete spinal cord injury, he or she still has some movement and sensation in the body parts that are located below the area of injury.

When people suffer spinal injuries, they may deal with a variety of health and emotional issues. Some patients who have spinal injuries must live the rest of their lives in a wheelchair. This can cause feelings of hopelessness since they do not enjoy the freedom of movement and independence they once had. They may worry about how others will view them now that they have a physical disability.

Spinal cord injuries can also cause related medical problems. For example, some spinal injury patients may develop breathing problems or issues relating to the urinary tract and bowel movements. They also are at a higher risk of developing blood clots since they experience a more sedentary lifestyle.

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Discussion Comments

By anon325142 — On Mar 14, 2013

Four years ago I was diagnosed with meningitis, pneumonia, blood poisoning and a sinus infection. The result was three-plus weeks in a coma. Then I spent 2 1/2 months in rehab and another 2 1/2 months in a nursing home.

When released, I was totally dependent on a wheelchair, had a partially paralyzed bladder and bowels, no balance, 75 percent hearing loss and one eye is fixed and dilated. After four years at a snail's pace, I am now able to walk with the aid of a walker and pretty much independent. My balance is the only thing that hinders me in any way and I self cath four times a day. Life is a lot better than I ever thought it would be thanks to time and lots of prayers!

By popcorn — On Jan 13, 2012

@letshearit - I had to go in for spinal injury treatment after I slipped a disc in my back. I haven't ever been in that much pain before and getting better required a lot of spinal cord injury rehab. I was a fool and didn't take the proper precautions when I was lifting heavy boxes.

I think that your caution about spinal cord injuries is warranted but I wouldn't be too frightened of it happening. There is a lot you can control in life and a lot you can't. If you want to feel proactive I would suggest looking up some guidelines on how to keep your back strong and injury free.

By letshearit — On Jan 12, 2012

My uncle was in a car accident and suffered a minor spinal cord injury. He required months of physiotherapy before he could comfortably sit again. I am not sure exactly what happened to him but he had a lot of difficulty moving without pain for quite awhile after the accident and had to wear a neck brace as well.

I am always worried that I am going to do something stupid and end up in spinal cord injury rehabilitation. From how my uncle made it sound it was a really tough process. I am terrified of the idea of ever suffering from something like spinal injury paralysis.

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