Man in wheelchair waiting for physical therapy

Spinal Cord Injuries: Your Essential Questions Answered

April 10, 2019

The impact of a spinal cord injury on your life and the lives of your family can be devastating. Physical and emotional repercussions as well as the cost of treatment can last a lifetime.

Our Minneapolis spinal cord injury lawyers cover some important questions about spinal cord injuries to help you better understand this type of injury and what you can do if you’ve been affected.

What is the spinal cord?

The spinal cord is the bundle of nerve fibers protected within the spine (vertebrae). It connects the brain to nearly every part of the body as part of the central nervous system and relays messages to and from the brain and the body.

What is a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that disrupts the signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Injury can occur at any level of the spinal cord and affects the parts of the body controlled by nerves at and below the injury.

Spinal cord injuries usually happen when there is damage to the vertebrae that protect the spinal cord. This can include one or more of the vertebrae becoming dislocated, fractured, crushed, or compressed, thereby crushing or tearing the spinal cord.

Gunshots, knife wounds, and other penetrative injuries can also cut or tear the spinal cord.

What causes spinal cord injuries?

Motor vehicle accidents and falls are the most common causes of spinal cord injury. Acts of violence and sport/recreation accidents are the second most common causes. Spinal cord injuries can also occur during medical surgeries or procedures, although this is rare. Certain diseases such as spina bifida can also cause spinal cord injury.

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol is a factor in one out of every four spinal cord injuries. 

Are there different levels of spinal cord injury?

The severity of the injury depends on the level of damage done to the nervous tissue. Spinal cord injuries fall into two category types: complete and incomplete.

  • Complete – Complete injury is a total loss of function (feeling and control of movement) below the level of injury. This is also known as quadriplegia or tetraplegia, where all four limbs and the torso of the body are affected.
  • Incomplete – Incomplete injury leaves partial function below the level of injury. This is also known as paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower body and legs. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury such as feeling in areas that cannot be controlled or the ability to control one side of the body and not the other. 

How does a spinal cord injury affect the rest of the body?

The effects of a spinal cord injury on the rest of the body are complex and far reaching. Injury complications often include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Circulatory problems
  • Bladder and/or bowel control
  • Muscle tone depletion
  • Muscle spasticity (spasms)
  • Pressure sores (or pressure ulcers)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Pain

What treatment options are there?

Spinal cord injury victims require a combination of training and treatments to address the myriad physical, psychological, and emotional complications of living with a disability.

Spinal cord injury treatments include surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, spinal or brain electrical stimulation, acupuncture, medications, and psychotherapy. 

Relearning how to manage regular bodily functions such as breathing, eating, and emptying the bladder and bowels also requires special training.

How can I get help?

If you or a loved one experiences a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation. Consulting with a Minneapolis spinal cord injury lawyer will ensure you have the right representation to help you achieve the best possible outcome. 

If you are in need of a personal injury attorney in Minnesota, contact the team at Hall Law today to schedule a free consultation.