What are the Levels of Spinal Cord Injury?

Posted: October 15, 2021

Spinal cord injuries can leave victims suffering from lifelong disabilities. Not only does this affect the actual spinal cord injury victim, but it will also affect their family. However, if we want to have a serious discussion about spinal cord injuries, we have to look at the various levels of these injuries. Here, we will list the levels of spinal cord injuries, specifically examining the severity of the paralysis at each level as well as the causes of spinal cord trauma.

Spinal Cord Injuries: Complete or Incomplete

When examining spinal cord injuries, there are various factors that we have to look at to determine the level of severity. At its most basic, a spinal cord injury can be defined as complete or incomplete.

  1. Complete spinal cord injury. A complete spinal cord injury is one that causes permanent damage to the area of the spinal cord that has been affected, and this will likely cut off any signal going from the brain to the rest of the body below the injury site. Typically, paraplegia and tetraplegia victims have suffered from a complete spinal cord injury.
  2. Incomplete spinal cord injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury refers to what happens when there is partial damage to the spinal cord at the site of the injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury can affect a victim’s ability to move as well as how much feeling they have around the area of the injury and below the area of injury. Patient outcomes in these situations will depend on the individual’s overall health, the effectiveness of medical treatment, and their medical history.

Various Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries

After we determine whether or not a spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete, we have to look at the various sections of the spinal cord (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral) to further define the level of injury. Every section of the spine protects different groups of nerves, each of which has specific functions in our bodies. The severity of a spinal cord injury often depends on the section of the spine that sustains trauma.

  • Cervical spine. The cervical spine is located in the neck region of our bodies. If the cervical spine sustains trauma, this can lead to a person experiencing symptoms throughout their entire body, including complete or partial paralysis from the neck down.
  • Thoracic spine. The thoracic spine is below the cervical spine, and this area can affect the middle back, upper chest, and abdominal muscles. Those who sustain thoracic spinal injuries often struggle to move their arms and hands normally.
  • Lumbar spine. Injuries to the lumbar spine can affect hips and leg movement. Individuals with lumbar spinal cord trauma may have to rely on a wheelchair, or they may need to use a walker or braces in order to walk properly.
  • Sacral spine. The sacral spinal cord is the lowest area of the spinal column, and injuries to this area can affect a person’s hips, back of thighs, buttocks, and pelvic organs.

How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur

Data provided by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) indicates that hundreds of thousands of people are living with spinal cord injuries in this country, and that there are around 18,000 new spinal cord injuries that occur each year. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries over the last half-decade include vehicle accidents, falls from various levels, intentional violence, sports injuries, and medical mistakes.

Any person who sustains a spinal cord injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of others should be able to recover compensation. However, a Denver spinal cord injury lawyer needs to get involved so that they can handle every aspect of these claims on behalf of their client.