Answers to Your Spinal Cord Injury Questions

Answers to Your Spinal Cord Injury Questions Spinal cord injuries can be among the most devasting injuries to the human body. When it comes to injuries, no one’s body is immune. Even celebrities can suffer a devastating injury. Actor Christopher Reeve, best known for starring as Superman in the movies of the 1970s and 1980s, suffered a severe spinal cord injury (SCI) in a fall from his horse during an equestrian event.

Reeve, who was 42 at the time he was injured, was left quadriplegic and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, advocating for disability legislation and spinal cord research. While he may have been the most famous, Reeve was just one of the many people across the country who suffer from spinal cord injuries. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) estimates that approximately 296,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injuries.

These injuries vary in severity from herniated discs to partial or complete paralysis. The NSCISC also estimates that approximately 17,900 new spinal cord injuries occur each year in the United States. This number does not include those who die at the location of the incident that caused the SCI. A spinal cord injury can be devastating and leave the injured person and their loved ones reeling mentally and emotionally. Information, and an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer, can help. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about spinal cord injuries.

What is the spinal cord, and what does it do?

The spinal cord is a key component of the central nervous system. A column of nerve tissue running from the base of the skull down the center of the back, it acts as the conduit for communication between the brain and the body, transmitting messages from the brain to the limbs and other extremities. An injury to the spinal cord may disrupt this exchange of information, potentially leaving a person without any sensation or body movement below the site of the spinal cord injury.

Why are spinal cord injuries so dangerous?

Damaging any part of the spinal cord may permanently alter a person’s physical strength and range of motion. A more severe injury could result in the loss of sensation and body movement below the injury site.

The impact a spinal cord injury has on a person’s life depends on both the specific type of injury they suffer and the severity of the injury. It is possible for an SCI to change or affect the injured person’s entire life. For instance, someone who suffers a spinal cord injury may be physically incapable of performing his or her current job – or any other job. The loss of wages and future earning potential may interfere with an injured person’s ability to provide for his or her family and themself, and the economic hardship could result in significant changes to his or her overall quality of life.

Additionally, the cost of ongoing medical care can be overwhelming. A spinal cord injury may require expensive, invasive medical treatment such as surgery. Even if surgery is not required to treat an SCI, physical therapy and other treatments can quickly eat into a person’s income.

In terms of personal life, someone who suffers a spinal cord injury may be unable to take care of their children or other loved ones as they did before their injury. Lifting their child up, hugging their child, or even simply holding their hand may not be possible. Likewise, they may be unable to perform what used to be simple daily chores such as cleaning or maintaining their home, shopping for groceries, or getting from one place to another. Participating in certain types of exercise, sports, and other physically demanding hobbies may become just a memory of their former life.

What are the different types of spinal cord injuries?

Spinal cord injuries can vary in severity, ranging from slipped or herniated discs to catastrophic injuries such as paralysis.

Herniated discs are among the most common spinal cord injuries. While they can occur on any part of the spine, they happen most often in the lower back. A herniated disc can irritate the surrounding nerves and cause pain, numbness, or tingling, as well as weakness in an arm or leg – although some people do not experience any symptoms.

While a herniated disc can be incredibly painful, it is not the most severe spinal injury a person can suffer. A spinal cord injury that results in temporary or permanent paralysis is considered severe. The extent of the paralysis is determined by the location of the injury on the spinal cord:

  • Paraplegia – Paralysis that affects all or part of a person’s trunk, legs, and pelvic organs is known as paraplegia. In this type of paralysis, a person’s upper body, including the arms and hands, are unaffected.
  • Quadriplegia – Also known as tetraplegia, this refers to a paralysis that affects the arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.

What are some common causes of spinal cord injuries?

Among the top-ranking causes of spinal cord injuries, motor vehicle crashes are the most common. They are followed closely by falls, violence, sport-related injuries, and medical or surgical incidents. These causes account for most traumatic spinal cord injuries, where a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine fractures, dislocated, crushes, or compresses one or more vertebrae.

Spinal cord injuries can also be the result of nontraumatic causes such as arthritis, inflammation, cancer, infection, or disc degeneration of the spine.

What should to do if you suspect that someone may have a spinal injury?

Time is of the essence when it comes to spinal injuries. Someone who suffers significant trauma to their head, neck, or back should be evaluated immediately for an injury or damage to their spinal cord. If you suspect someone may have a spinal injury, do not move them. Contact emergency services right away so that they can assess the injured person and stabilize their head, neck, or back before taking them to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Keep in mind that it is not always immediately obvious whether someone has suffered a serious spinal injury. Failing to err on the side of caution may lead to a more severe injury or outcome. According to the Mayo Clinic, serious spinal injuries can be difficult to diagnose without medical imaging and evaluation. While numbness or paralysis may be immediate, it can also come on gradually as a result of bleeding or swelling in or around the spinal cord.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury, you may be entitled to compensation. It is crucial that you speak with a personal injury lawyer experienced in spinal cord injury cases. The Los Angeles spinal cord injury lawyers at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP are well versed in all aspects of SCIs and the devastating impact these injuries can have on a person’s overall physical, mental, and emotional health, and financial security. We work hard to get our clients the financial compensation they deserve. If you are interested in speaking with one of our experienced spinal cord injury attorneys, call our office at 310-474-1582 or complete our contact form to schedule your free, remote consultation today.

Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.