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What can I do after an accident injures my spine?

One of the most devastating injuries to suffer in an auto accident is to the spinal cord as this type of trauma frequently causes paralysis. Even when the victim isn't completely or permanently paralyzed, the repercussions can still be quite severe.

Learning what to expect after a disabling injury to your spine can help you adjust to the situation and face your considerable challenges head-on.

What is a spinal cord injury?

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) inflict damage to the nerves running along and inside of the bony spinal column. Typically, the higher up the trauma is, the more debilitating the injury will be. If the spinal cord is severed, complete and irreversible paralysis is the result.

But that doesn't mean that those with intact but bruised spinal cords will not suffer tremendously as well. In some ways, their suffering may be even more intense, as when the cord is broken, there is no feeling below the injury level. When it is damaged, yet intact, victims can suffer from tremendous pain and agonizing spasms.

3 sections of the spine

Human spines are divided into three sections — cervical, thoracic and lumbar/sacral.

Cervical region

If the spinal cord is injured between the C1 through C8 segments, it can result in quadriplegia, like in the case of Christopher Reeve. Victims typically will lose the use of all four limbs, the ability to move their heads and possibly need to be on ventilators in order to breathe for the rest of their lives if the damage occurs above the C3 level.

Thoracic region

Damage occurring to nerves from T1 to T12 affect the relay of signals to the victims' torsos and portions of their arms.

If the damage is from T1 to T8, they may lose control of their upper torsos, including the abdominal muscles. Damage to T9 to T12 will not affect the trunk or abdominal muscles.

Lumbar and sacral regions

If the injuries are to the mid-back region below the ribcage — L1 to L5, victims can still control their legs and hips. Injuries to S1 through S5 in the mid-back can cause loss of bladder and bowel control, as well as affecting the groin, legs and feet.

Because spinal cord injuries can be life-altering, it's vital to protect your right to pursue financial compensation.

Source: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "Causes of a spinal cord injury," accessed April 06, 2018

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