The Two Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most serious types of personal injury cases. These types of injuries can be the result of a car accident, faulty products, and even something as simple as diving into a swimming pool that isn’t up to code. The impact of a spinal cord injury can vary greatly depending on the severity and location of the damage. No two injuries are the same, and their outcomes can be completely different based on the level of post-trauma early intervention care and follow-up care the injured person receives.

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Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

There are two categories of spinal cord injuries: incomplete and complete. A complete spinal cord injury occurs when the spinal cord is fully compressed or severed, which eliminates the brain’s ability to send signals below the injury location. An incomplete spinal cord injury is an injury where a person retains some feeling and/or function below the injury site in one or more areas of the body. Incomplete spinal cord injuries can vary wildly. Some cases may be so mild that there is barely any muscle weakness or other signs that the injury has occurred.  Some cases can be so severe that a person experiences symptoms that are similar to a complete spinal cord injury.

How Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries Are Caused

Whether a spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete bears little correlation to what incident caused the injury. An aspect as seemingly innocuous as body position during the time of injury contributes more to the severity. While incomplete spinal cord injuries are more common, the most common causes for both incomplete and complete spinal cord injuries include:

  • Car accidents
  • Falls
  • Violence, primarily from gunshot wounds
  • Sports

Other causes include infections, unknown injuries, and medical malpractice.

Symptoms of Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Identifying complete versus incomplete spinal cord injury can be difficult, particularly within the first few weeks of injury. This can be attributed to swelling, which can interfere with body functioning. After the swelling goes down, it becomes easier to discern whether the injury is a complete spinal cord injury or incomplete.

Over time, differences in symptoms emerge. For complete spinal cord injuries these include:

  • Loss of sensation below the site of the injury.
  • Complete loss of motion below the site of the injury.
  • Difficulty controlling your bladder and bowels.
  • If the injury is high enough in your spinal cord, difficulty breathing on your own.

For incomplete spinal cord injuries symptoms manifest themselves these ways:

  • Retaining some sensation below the site of the injury. The sensation of feeling may come and go and could be much weaker than you used to experience before the injury.
  • Being able to move some muscles below the site of the injury. The extent of movement may vary. Individuals may have good control over some muscles, but no control over others.
  • Pain below the injury can manifest itself as chronic pain.

Regardless of whether the spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete, a spinal cord injury often demands legal action. Individuals who have been injured in a car accident, using a faulty product, or in a medical malpractice case should seek legal counsel from the best personal injury lawyers in Orange County and the Greater Los Angeles area. The lawyers at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen help seek justice for those who need it so they can spend their time and energy on recovery and rehabilitation. Visit our LinkedInFacebook, or our blog for more helpful resources.