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A spinal cord injury — damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) — often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.
If you've recently experienced a spinal cord injury, it might seem like every aspect of your life has been affected. You might feel the effects of your injury mentally, emotionally and socially.
Many scientists are optimistic that advances in research will someday make the repair of spinal cord injuries possible. Research studies are ongoing around the world. In the meantime, treatments and rehabilitation allow many people with spinal cord injuries to lead productive, independent lives.
Your ability to control your limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on two factors: the place of the injury along your spinal cord and the severity of injury to the spinal cord.
The lowest normal part of your spinal cord is referred to as the neurological level of your injury. The severity of the injury is often called "the completeness" and is classified as either of the following:
Complete: If all feeling (sensory) and all ability to control movement (motor function) are lost below the spinal cord injury, your injury is called complete.
Incomplete If you have some motor or sensory function below the affected area, your injury is called incomplete. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury.
Additionally, paralysis from a spinal cord injury may be referred to as:
Tetraplegia. Also known as quadriplegia, this means that your arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by your spinal cord injury.Paraplegia. This paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs. Your health care team will perform a series of tests to determine the neurological level and completeness of your injury. Spinal cord injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
Emergency signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury after an accident may include: