Spinal Cord Injuries and What to Expect



What can I expect if I have suffered a spinal cord injury?

Three is no doubt that spinal cord injuries are a massive assault to the body and mind. Within seconds, an active independent person becomes immobilized, losing control of bodily mobility and now faces a lifetime of being dependent on others to meet their basic needs.  The instantaneous effects of a spinal cord injury will no doubt be beginning of a life-long physical and psychological adjustment process.

There is also no doubt that many spinal cord injury victims will have many, many questions about their injuries. After the initial hospitalization and after leaving a rehab centre, there is a deep sense of change from within – and perhaps an acceptance at that point, that life is going to be different. Life will be full of uncertainties, dependence and a desire for understanding – and perhaps a desire to learn exactly where your own body is hurt. A desire to know the anatomical reason behind your injury, about what is broken. A desire to know where your body failed you.

How can I learn about my Spinal Cord Injury?

Unfortunately, the in-depth understanding of spinal cord injury requires a solid foundation in many disciplines of medicine including physiatry, neuroscience, critical care, neurophysiology, neuroimaging, surgery, and neurorehabilitation. Without years of medical training or being involved with an active clinical practice, it is simply not possible to learn everything there is to know about spinal cord injuries from a physiological perspective. But the good news is that anyone can learn the general anatomy and disposition of the spinal cord and how it works. Once you understand the basic anatomical structure, you can then learn about the classification of spinal cord injuries and then further learn type of spinal cord injury that you or your loved one suffers from.

Understanding the Basics of Spinal Cord Anatomy

Put simply, your spinal cord is the part of your body that transmits messages between your brain and your body. It is like a cable, which is about the width of your pinky – a cylinder package of nerves which are connected to your brain that extends down your spinal canal that is protected by 33 vertebral bones which forms the spinal column.  Just like your  skull protects the brain, your vertebrae protect the spinal cord.  When you hurt or damage your spinal cord then the feeling and movement of certain parts of your body, and involuntary functions such as breathing can be lost or greatly impacted. Damage to the spinal cord can be temporary or permanent impairment.

Your Spinal Cord is like a Two-way Street

Your spinal cord is like a two-way street. First, it is a motor nerve pathway (downwards from your brain) which carries information from the brain downwards to initiate movement and control body functions. If you damage your spinal cord, your brain will not be able to imitate movement and control your body below the part of the spinal cord that is damaged.  The other portion is called sensory pathway (upwards to your brain). The sensory pathway carries sensory information from the body up to the brain such as touch, skin temperature and pain.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury happens when your spinal cord is damages and the pathway signals – either motor or sensory – are interrupted, resulting in a loss of signal going form the brain to the body and from the body to the brain.  The damaged is normally caused following major trauma – such as the crushing to the spinal cord, which destroys  nerve cells and pathways at specific levels within the cord.

Classification of Spinal Cord Injury – Traumatic and Non-Traumatic

There are two major classes of spinal cord injury. The first is a traumatic spinal cord injury.  This is when your spinal cord is hurt by external physical impact, such as from violence, a fall or a car accident or motorcycle accident.   Traumatic spinal cord injuries are normally defined as a traumatic lesion of the spinal cord that cause different levels of motor and sensory paralysis.   The second is non-traumatic spinal cord injury, when a negative health problem damages the spinal cord, such as an infection, a virus, a tumor, inflammatory disease ect.

Classification of Spinal Cord Injury – Paraplegic and Quadriplegic

Spinal Cord Injuries are normally classified as quadriplegia (tetraplegia) or paraplegia.  Paralysis of both the arms and legs has been traditionally been called quadriplegia. It is also called tetraplegia. Quadriplegia normally occurs if your spinal cord has been damaged in your cervical region (neck), and all four limbs are affected and pelvic organs are affected. Depending on the level of injury, patients may have some sensation and motor activity in the shoulders and upper arms.  Paraplegia injury results in varying levels of paralysis of the lower extremities, impairment of the trunk and pelvic organs.

Spinal Cord Injuries are Divided into Two Types – Complete and Incomplete.

A complete spinal cord injury results in paralysis below the point of trauma, leaving a person without feeling or movement.  A ‘complete’ spinal cord injury means there is complete loss of movement and feeling below the level of the injury. In other words, messages from the brain cannot be received past the area that you hurt.  It usually takes a substantial amount of trauma to the spinal column, such as a complete dislocation or major fractures to the vertebral bones to cause a complete spinal cord injury – meaning  the spinal cord is either crushed and completely compromised.

An incomplete spinal cord injury is when only part of the cord is damaged. If you have an incomplete spinal cord injury you may have some feeling and movement or will have a prognosis of regaining it.   Medically speaking, a spinal cord injury with any residual movement or feeling more than three segments below the level of injury is considered incomplete. Signs of preserved long-tract function include sensation (such as temperature or pain) or being able to voluntary move your lower extremities (legs, feet, toes).

There are several different types of incomplete spinal cord injuries:

  • Cervicomedullary syndrome
  • Central cord syndrome
  • Anterior cord syndrome
  • Posterior cord syndrome
  • Brown-Séquard syndrome
  • Conus medullaris syndrome

Financing the Treatment & Recovery of Spinal Cord Injuries

The aim of successful rehabilitation is to enable the spinal cord injury victim to live as satisfactory and fulfilling a life as possible. The aim of our experienced Hamilton Spinal Cord Lawyer is to make sure the spinal cord injury victim’s care, recovery and rehabilitation is fully funded for life.  Adequate finance is a major factor in determining successful rehabilitation. Long term care, including the cost of in-home attendance care, mobility devices, medications, home modifications, travel companions, psychological care, occupational therapy, adaptive vehicles and maintenance ect could potentially cost millions of dollars over your lifetime .If you have been hurt by the recklessness of another person or company, an experienced Hamilton spinal cord lawyer will fight to make sure that your costs are appropriately funded.

Coming Home – A Complicated Process

There is no doubt that discharge from hospital will be a complicated process for you, but the achievement of a successful outcome largely depends on the education you receive while hospitalized.  From our experience, emotional recovery following a spinal cord injury is highly dependent on experiencing routine, structure and normality in one’s daily life, and therefore it is crucial that this occur as soon as possible in the rehabilitation phase in hospital.  In Hamilton, at the Regional Rehabilitation Center, a sense of normality is created by constant interaction with the various health professionals and daily routine to establish some structure.  Adequate treatment in the initial period after trauma is critical to the long-term outcome for victims.

Spinal Cord Injury Experts – Hamilton Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers

There is absolutely nothing predictable about the recovery and future of a SCI victim, but no matter what the situation, our Hamilton spinal cord lawyers can help with obtaining the life-long compensation required to rebuild your life or the life of a loved one.  We understand that experiencing a SCI poses a momentous challenge and requires not only personal adaptation and resilience to cope in order to develop strengths and discover new ways of doing things, but your care costs money – and you need to be protected.

Our Hamilton spinal cord injury lawyers are connected with and can set up the appropriate occupational therapists that will not only work with discharge planning, but will be a long-term part of your life, along with case managers nurses, psychologists, nutritionists, physical therapists to help prepare your life-care plan, and address all of the your present and future needs.  If you or a loved one simply needs to talk or have a conversation about funding the future, please give us a call at 905-333-8888, fill out a contact form or chat with our live operator 24/7.   We will ensure to get back to you withing 1 hour, 24/7.