What Happens if Your Spinal Cord is Damaged?


According to statistics from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, nearly 18,000 people each year will suffer a spinal cord injury in an incident. In addition, there are close to 300,000 Americans currently living with some degree of spinal cord injury.

These injuries can result in a lifetime of pain and suffering, as well as permanent paralysis and disability. Tragically, many individuals also die as a result of their injury.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is comprised of nerves and tissues located in the spine. These nerves connect nearly all parts of the body to the brain. They’re responsible for movement, feeling, and reflexes.

A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord or the nerves of the spinal cord. This damage can be minor and short-term or it can result in serious and permanent impairment.

The degree of impairment directly hinges on the place of the injury along your spinal cord and the severity of your injury.

  • Complete Spinal Cord Injury – all feeling and movement are lost below the spinal cord injury.
  • Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury – partial feeling and movement still located below the affected area

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Damage

If your spinal cord has been damaged, you may suffer a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Loss of movement (paralysis)
    • Tetraplegia – affects all four quadrants of the body and includes paralysis of the arms, hands, legs, trunk, and pelvic organs.
    • Paraplegia – affects the lower half of the body and includes paralysis of the legs, pelvic organs, and trunk.
  • Loss or altered sensation of heat, cold, or touch
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Nerve pain
  • Difficulty breathing or clearing lungs
  • Extreme pressure in head and neck
  • Weakness or loss of muscle control
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities

What to Do if You Suspect a Spinal Cord Injury

If you suspect that someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury, the steps you take can have an immediate impact on their long-term prognosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, take the following steps if you believe a spinal cord injury may be present.

  • Don’t attempt to move the person
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Stay with the victim and monitor them closely
  • Keep victim still and immobile
  • Place heavy towels or rolls on both sides of the neck or hold the neck still until paramedics arrive
  • Provide first aid or CPR if required.

Long-term Prognosis for Spinal Cord Injuries

Treatment options vary with each spinal cord injury, but can include a combination of surgery, physical therapy, and steroid injections.

Injured accident victims may need to go through extensive rehabilitation and care in order to put their lives back together again. They may need to modify their homes, their cars, and their lifestyles in order to accommodate their new disabilities.

During this time, many injured spinal cord injury victims suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.

Contact Our Providence Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Today

If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury after an accident, we can help. At Mandell, Boisclair & Mandell, Ltd, our Providence spinal cord injury lawyers know that spinal cord injuries can be severe, life-threatening, and result in permanent disability. That’s why we work aggressively for all our injured clients.

We can help you obtain the money you need to move through life after a spinal cord injury. Call us today at (401) 283-0745 or fill out our confidential contact form for a free initial consultation and review of your case.