A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that can
interfere with how messages travel back and forth between the brain and the
rest of the body. An injury to the spinal cord can result in complete or
partial loss of movement (paralysis) and feeling and complete or partial loss
of bladder and bowel function.
The degree of lost feeling and/or
movement in a spinal cord injury depends on how high on the spinal cord the
damage occurs (the level of the injury). Damage to the spinal cord in the neck
area (cervical segment) can result in complete or partial paralysis of the arms
and legs (tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia). Damage lower on the spinal
cord can result in complete or partial paralysis of the legs and lower body
(paraplegia). Breathing is only affected by injuries high on the spinal cord.
But bowel and bladder control can be affected no matter where the spinal cord
The spinal cord can be injured because of an accident,
such as a fall or a car accident, or because of a disease, such as an
incorrectly formed spine (spina bifida) or a narrowing of the spinal
Treatment immediately after a spinal cord injury can help
limit nerve damage. Extensive rehabilitation is needed to learn to live with
less mobility and feeling.
February 16, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
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