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What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury describes any damage to the bones (vertebrae), soft tissues, disks, or nerves that send and receive signals from the brain, all of which are located in the spine. Spinal cord injuries can have significant effects on victims. Serious trauma to the spine could result in permanent nerve damage that interferes with the ability to walk, move and feel sensations.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries 

Spinal cord injuries are classified based on the location of the injury along the spinal cord, which is divided into five main sections. From the bottom to the top, these sections are the coccyx, sacrum, lumbar spine, thoracic spine and cervical spine. All 33 vertebrae that make up the spinal cord are divided into one of these five sections. 

Any part of the spinal cord could sustain injury in a traumatic accident. Injury types include:

  • Disk herniation or rupture
  • Nerve damage or compression
  • Spinal concussion or contusion
  • Muscle strains or sprains
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Severed spine

In general, injuries to the uppermost portion of the spine (the cervical spine) are the most severe. This is because spinal cord injuries impact the victim from the point of injury down. Injuries that occur higher up on the spine mean that more of the victim’s body will likely be affected. A severe cervical spine injury, for example, could cause quadriplegia, or paralysis from the neck down.

Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries 

Paralysis refers to a loss of feeling and function in part of the body due to damage to the nerves located in the injured area. A complete spinal cord injury means that the damage is total and (typically) permanent. An incomplete spinal cord injury means that the spine is damaged, but can still relay some signals to and from the brain. A victim with an incomplete spinal cord injury may retain some sensation and movement below the point of injury.

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury?

The symptoms of a spinal cord injury can vary widely depending on the severity of the damage, the individual’s age and how quickly the injury is treated.

Common symptoms include: 

  • Pain or stiffness, especially in the back
  • Numbness or tingling anywhere in the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble walking or balancing
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of feeling or sensation
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Difficulty breathing


If an accident victim notices any potential symptoms of a back or spinal cord injury, it is imperative that he or she seek medical care immediately. Spinal cord injuries can be exacerbated due to delayed treatment.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can occur under many circumstances. Any incident that involves a blow to the spine, spinal cord compression, or penetrating injuries can damage one or more of the spine’s parts. Common examples include motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports impacts, diving accidents, workplace and industrial accidents, and medical malpractice. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and suffered a spinal cord injury, contact our New Haven car accident lawyers today for a free case evaluation. 

Seeking Compensation for a Spinal Cord Injury in New Haven

If you suffer a spinal cord injury in any type of accident in New Haven, your life may be turned upside-down. You may have permanent effects from your injury, such as nerve damage or paralysis. If someone else’s careless or reckless act caused your spinal cord injury, you may be eligible for compensation for your past and future losses. Contact Jacobs & Jacobs for a free review of your case.

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