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What Are the Signs of a Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are incredibly damaging, both physically and mentally. The spine is a host of important nerves responsible for the body’s sensation and movement. An SCI can limit or completely take away a person’s ability to move or feel below the point of injury. Damages from an SCI are typically permanent and perhaps even fatal, although many patients with partial SCIs can recover some functionality with physical therapy and rehabilitation. Permanent disabilities from SCIs can affect a patient’s quality of life and mental/emotional wellbeing.

Common SCI Symptoms

After an accident, a victim with a SCI may or may not immediately recognize a problem. The severity of the SCI will determine the amount of pain or disability the accident victim experiences. There are two types of SCIs: complete and incomplete. A complete SCI would result in the loss of almost all feeling and ability to move below the point of injury – noticeable damage right away. However, some SCIs are not as obvious, and victims discover them days or even weeks after the accident. An incomplete SCI can leave the victim with some function and sensation below the point of injury.

Visit a doctor directly following a major accident, even if you don’t feel injured. Failure to recognize a SCI can result in more severe damage. In some SCIs, the area surrounding the spine may swell or bleed over time, gradually causing numbness or paralysis. At the time of the injury, a victim may experience spinal shock. Spinal shock can limit the feeling and muscle movement below the level of injury, but is not permanent. Symptoms may last hours, days, or weeks. Once the shock wears off, the patient may experience other acute SCI symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of feeling in the limbs or trunk of the body
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis
  • Pain caused by nerve fiber damage in the spine
  • Muscle spasticity or exaggerated reflexes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart rate and blood pressure issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel function
  • Sexual dysfunction

All of these are signs of an acute SCI. In some cases, a victim may experience signs of an SCI right away. Symptoms of an SCI in an emergency situation include an oddly positioned or twisted back or neck; difficulty walking; extreme neck, head, or back pain; and paralysis in any part of the body. If you suspect you have an SCI after an accident, don’t move until paramedics arrive. Moving the wrong way after a SCI can exacerbate the damage.

When to See a Doctor for a Spine Injury

Many types of accidents can result in SCIs. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center studied SCIs from 2005 to 2015 to ascertain the most common causes of this type of injury. The number one cause of SCIs is auto accidents (39.08% of SCIs), followed by falls (29.54%), acts of violence (14.41%), sports activities (8.39%), and other accidents (8.57%). If you’re involved in any of these types of personal injury accidents, visit a doctor.

Every Spinal cord injury is unique. Victims experience symptoms differently depending on a variety of factors. In many cases, symptoms of a serious SCI can resemble other conditions, causing a harmful delayed or misdiagnosis. Visit a health care provider as soon as possible after an accident and tell the doctor about the circumstances of your injury. Knowing you were involved in a serious car accident, for example, will signal to the doctor to check for a SCI.

A spine injury is extremely serious, can impact almost every aspect of daily life, and in some cases can result in death. See a doctor as soon as you experience any of the common symptoms of an SCI. And if you received this injury due to someone’s negligence, contact the Riverside personal injury attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case. 951-543-9020

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