What Are The Levels of Spinal Cord Injury?

There are many misconceptions about spinal cord injuries, but one thing is certain – any level of spinal cord injury is serious. These types of injuries can leave lasting impacts on a victim, even if the injury does not lead to total paralysis. Here, we want to discuss the various levels of spinal cord injuries that a person can sustain.

Complete Versus Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

The most basic and initial definition of a spinal cord injury, according to information from the Shepherd Center, is a classification as “complete” or “incomplete.”

  • Complete spinal cord injury: Complete spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord is completely severed at the site of the injury. This type of injury almost certainly means that the victim will sustain paralysis from the site of the injury downward.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury: Incomplete spinal cord injuries occur if the spinal cord receives partial damage but is not completely severed. These types of spinal cord injuries could have varying effects on individuals depending on the severity of the incident and where the injury occurred. Some people experience various levels of paralysis, while other individuals with incomplete spinal cord injuries may retain most of their movement.

Quadriplegia Versus Paraplegia

We should examine some common terms associated with spinal cord injuries to ensure you understand their precise meaning. Some words you’re probably familiar with are “quadriplegia” and “paraplegia.”

  • Quadriplegia: This is sometimes referred to as tetraplegia and refers to paralysis that affects all of a person’s limbs and body from the neck down. In most situations, individuals with quadriplegia have sustained spinal cord trauma to the cervical area of the spine.
  • Paraplegia: Tetraplegia refers to paralysis of all or parts of the legs, pelvic organs, and trunk of the body. Individuals who sustain paraplegic injuries typically have suffered A spinal cord injury at a lower area of their spine, often the lumbar area.

Areas of the Spine

Our spinal columns are made up of various levels, including the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal.

  1. Cervical: Injuries to the cervical area are considered the most severe types of spinal cord injuries and are often fatal. Individuals who sustain cervical spinal cord injuries will likely suffer from quadriplegia, leading to complete paralysis, problems with breathing and speaking, and bowel and bladder control problems.
  2. Thoracic: Individuals who sustained thoracic spinal cord injuries could see their chest, abdominal, and mid-back areas affected. The degree of recovery from a thoracic spinal cord injury varies from person to person, but patients will still likely need assistance for many tasks.
  3. Lumbar: Individuals who sustain lumbar spinal cord injuries are often able to walk with braces or use a wheelchair to perform most tasks. Many patients can recover with extended time in physical therapy and rehabilitation.
  4. Sacral: Injuries to the sacral level of the spinal cord often affect the hips, thighs, buttocks, and pelvic region of a victim. Individuals will likely be able to walk normally with this level of injury.
  5. Coccygeal: Also referred to as the tailbone, injuries to the coccyx area are likely to cause significant pain, but these injuries typically heal over time and cause no long-term issues for a victim.

Working With an Attorney

If you or somebody you love has sustained a spinal cord injury caused by the negligent actions of another party, please reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. A skilled Seattle spinal cord injury attorney can examine the facts of your case and help you determine the best steps moving forward to recover compensation.