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What are the symptoms of a spinal cord injury?

| Jan 25, 2021 | Injury

Any damage to your spinal cord can become serious. In most cases, spinal cord injuries, or SCIs result in permanent changes to the body. Catastrophic injuries include any injury that causes a permanent or serious change to how you function.

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury can vary between injuries, explains Mayo Clinic.

Emergency signs

Immediately after an accident, there are a few signs that you could have a spinal cord injury. These signs include impaired breathing and weakness throughout your body. Experiencing paralysis, muscle weakness or pressure on your back, neck or head can indicate that the accident caused spinal cord damage.

If you have limited coordination or cannot walk or balance, this could indicate a problem with your spinal cord. Often, patients who have SCIs will have an unnatural twist to the neck or back following the accident.

Injury symptoms

Spinal cord injuries have two classifications: complete and incomplete. The classification of your SCI depends on the severity of your injury. When you have a complete injury, you lose all control below the area of the injury. With an incomplete injury, you have some motor or sensory function below the injury site.

You may also hear the words tetraplegia and paraplegia. Paraplegia affects the pelvic organs, legs and trunk, whereas tetraplegia affects arms, hands, pelvic organs and trunk. Other symptoms of an SCI might include a loss of bladder control, changes in sexual function, pain due to nerve fiber damage and breathing difficulties.

Spinal cord injuries vary in symptoms and the best way to judge an SCI is through an imaging exam.