A spinal cord injury occurs when your spinal cord is damaged. Trauma (a traumatic spinal cord injury), from a violent slip and fall, motorcycle accident or pedestrian accident can cause damage the spinal cord to the extent that it can no longer send and receive messages from the brain to the body’s system that controls sensory and motor function. Often times you might hear your doctor’s speak in reference to spinal cord injury being complete or incomplete. Understanding the difference between these two injury types can help you better predict your medical needs if you are injured.
A complete spinal cord injury means total sensory and motor loss below the site of spinal cord injury following acute (or chronic) damage, where the cord is severed, compressed, or following ischemia of the spinal cord. Better said, a person’s nerves below the point of injury on the vertebrae are cut-off with communication with the brain leading to total loss of function or paralysis below the specific location of the injury. Conversely, Incomplete injuries are those where some sensation or movement is retained below the level of the injury.
Traumatic spinal cord injuries are classified into several types by the American Spinal Injury Association and the International Spinal Cord Injury Classification System:
A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of the spinal cord, which is technically a 2-way conduit bundle of nerves. The spinal cord starts at the brain stem and runs down past your tailbone. When the spinal cord is traumatically injured, there is an interruption of the flow of information from the brain to whereever the information is going, and vice-versa. Spinal cord injury therefore prevents motor signals from reaching your muscles, resulting in the paralysis of those muscles and other bodily areas, or sensory information from reaching the brain. A complete spinal cord injury occurs when parts of the spinal cord are severely damaged, preventing blood flow and oxygen from reaching either the spinal column or parts of the spinal cord itself. This damage could result from a compression, crushing of the vertebral bones and spinal cord, or a puncture wound in the area.
These types of traumatic accidents may include:
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause for complete spinal cord injury, comprising approximately 31.5% of all cases. Slip and falls are the second most common cause, accounting for approximately 25.2% of all cases. This varies by age as well. Individuals over the age of 45 are more likely to suffer a complete spinal cord injury from a slip and fall, while individuals under the age of 45 are more likely to suffer their injury from a motor vehicle accident. Sports injuries, diving accidents, and motorcycle crashes are more common causes of complete spinal cord injury in males. A complete spinal cord injury could also be the result of a non-traumatic factor such as a medical condition, a disease acquired at birth, a tumor, a surgical complication from an alternative spinal issue, or a bone issue such as osteoporosis.
Compared to an incomplete Spinal Cord Injury, the diagnosis of a complete spinal cord injury can be much less complicated. The person with a complete spinal cord injury, if conscious, will usually complain of the inability to feel anything or the inability to move anything below a certain level of his or her body. Diagnosis of an incomplete spinal cord injury is more complicated. The person may still have feeling below the level of injury. The person may still have the ability to move below the level of injury. The person may complain of feeling weaker below the level of injury. The person may complain of pain below the level of injury. The person may complain of loss of control of the bladder and/or bowels.
Medically, there are no cures or specific medical treatments that can reverse the damage done by a complete spinal cord injury. Individuals do not recover their lost functions. There is significant research being conducted in the medical industry by researchers aiming to determine a cure. However, though it is promising, these researchers are still far from reaching a probable result.
Therapies and rehabilitation treatments are available to assist injured individuals in re-adjusting to their condition or managing chronic pain. These treatments also assist those individuals in becoming adjusted to wheelchairs or other devices, developing techniques to allow them to become more independent. Therapies may also assist in managing psychological distress and strengthening upper body muscles.
Complete spinal cord injuries are catastrophic injuries with potential devastating impacts including far-reaching physical, social and psychological consequences. Many spinal cord injury victims experience negative emotions in response totheir losses which unfortunately often leads to long-term psychological and social problems.
Although each person is unique, Complete spinal cord injury victims undergo significant life changes and adjustments, physically as well as mentally. Experiencing a complete spinal cord injury poses a huge challenge and requires adaptation and resilience to cope in order to develop strengths and discover new ways of doing things, not only physically, socially and work related, but also emotionally.
Returning to regular activities that were performed before the injury becomes brutally difficult when the individual must learn to do so in a wheelchair or using other assistive devices. They may also become unable to return to work. It takes significant time and effort to learn to perform these activities with the limitations of a complete spinal cord injury.
Spinal Cord Injuries result in paralysis of the body. This is the most obvious symptom as it leads to immobility. Loss of sensations below the level of injury lead to reduced
body awareness with insensitivity to touch, pain and temperature. In addition to the new life adjustments and activities a which a complete spinal cord injury victim must learn, there are also some complications and risk factors to be addressed. These include, but are not limited to:
Skin Management Issues: An individual with a complete spinal cord injury is often reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, rendering them vulnerable to skin issues such as developing pressure ulcers. Due to lack of nerve function, the body’s blood circulation is lower with spinal cord injury victims, which can leave them more vulnerable to wounds that do not heal effectively and cause potentially fatal infections.
Chronic Pain: Despite the loss of sensation and mobility below the level of injury, spinal cord injury victims are susceptible to chronic pain due to the nerve damage. This pain can become increasingly unbearable.
Emotional or Psychological Distress: Individuals with spinal cord injuries often undergo various emotional distress such as depression, anxiety, self-consciousness, body image issues, lack of confidence, and grief or mourning.
Sexual Health and Function: Due to the lack of sensation and mobility in the lower body, spinal cord injury victims often undergo serious issues with sexuality, which can have a resulting impact on intimate or marital relationships.
Circulatory Issues: As the nerve system is damaged, a spinal cord injury can cause the individual to suffer from decreased circulating, putting them at risk for various conditions such as pneumonia or high blood pressure.
Other issues can include respitory disturbance, sensory loss, pressure sores, bowl and bladdre disturbance, pneumonia and fractures.
Because you need an advocate and an experienced team on your side that is not hired by insurance companies.
There’s no doubt that perhaps the single biggest factor as to whether a person will live a full life after a spinal cord injury depends on the availability of financial resources. If you or your loved one has suffered a complete spinal cord injury due to the carelessness, negligence or recklessness of another person, motorist, or company, then you would have legal recourse to claim damages to compensate you for your injuries and losses. If your spinal cord injury occurred as a result of a car accident, pedestrian accident, trucking accident, motorcycle accident, or any other type of accident involving a vehicle then you or your loved one would be entitled to significant accident benefits in addition to compensation from the at fault driver’s insurance company.
It’s best that you retain a Hamilton lawyer that specializes in spinal cord injuries sooner rather than later. Spinal cord injury experts can ensure that the proper occupational therapists and other medical personnel are hired without any delay to assist with discharge planning. An occupational therapist will no doubt be required to assess your property and any accommodation or assistive devices that you will need to be set up before going home. Also, with the right team of experts retained by your Hamilton spinal cord injury lawyer, we will be able to identify your needs and make proper medical and rehabilitation projections and other needs which will be required throughout your life expectancy. Our goal is work with experienced experts who will assist our clients in achieving as much functional independence as possible, accomplish their long-term goals, and enjoy a satisfying, rewarding quality of life.
Spinal cord injuries are of the most serious and devastating injuries with profound consequences to the victim and his or her family. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to the recklessness or negligence of another person or company, call us today at 905-333-8888 or fill in a contact form for more information. Matt Lalande is an established spinal cord injury lawyer with a long history of success. Our consultations are always free and we will never, under any circumstances, ask for money upfront. We will get back to your intial enquiry within hours.