Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a large and sensitive body part. As such, there are many types of spinal cord injuries that an individual could face. The spinal cord has a protective layer to guard it from damage. Injuries occur once this protective layer becomes damaged.

The spinal cord can become damaged as a result of bursting, compressing, dislocating, fracturing, or hyper-extending of the spine. The severity of this damage varies depending on the extent of the physical trauma and the affected vertebrae.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries by Location

There are four types of spinal cord injuries that come with significant problems. These are the most serious examples of spinal cord damage, but there are others that exist.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

A cervical spinal cord injury is the worst type of injury to the spinal cord. Patients with this type of injury will suffer from either paralysis or tetraplegia. The paralysing effects can happen below the injured spot, or near the central nervous system. The cervical spinal cord consists of vertebrae C1 through C8. Damage to C1 through C4 is most severe, as these are high-cervical nerves. Due to the flexibility of the neck, injuries to the cervical spinal cord are not easy to neutralise. A patient with a cervical spinal cord injury may need a brace or neck stabiliser.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury

A thoracic spinal cord injury is rare as this part of the spinal cord gets protection from the rib cage. Injuries can affect vertebrae T1 through T12 of the spinal cord, which makes up the entire torso. Injuries to the thoracic spinal cord can cause paralysis and tetraplegia. Yet, the arms and hands remain unaffected. The thoracic spinal cord takes responsibility for the signals between certain back and abdominal muscles. A patient with a thoracic spinal cord injury usually needs a trunk brace to keep the spine stable.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury

The lumbar spinal cord takes up most of the lower half of the body. It includes vertebrae L1 through L5. A patient with an injury to the lumbar spinal cord will suffer from paraplegia. Yet, their arms, hands, and shoulders should not have any motor skill restrictions. Typically, a patient with a lumbar spinal cord injury will need surgery, followed by a form of external stabilisation.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

The sacral spinal cord is responsible for managing signals for the feet, genital organs, lower legs, and thighs. An injury to the sacral spinal cord may result in paralysis or tetraplegia, but only to the hips and legs. Patients suffering from sacral spinal cord injuries are usually able to walk without impediment.

Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

A complete spinal cord injury exists when the damage stops the brain and spinal cord from being able to interact together. This can leave a patient paralysed or in a tetraplegic state, as they won't be able to move or feel the parts below the injured area. Incomplete injuries don't have this barrier, so the lower level can still move to an extent. The prognosis is much more positive when the patient does not have a complete injury.