Types Of Spinal Cord Injury
29, May 2024

Types Of Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord serves as a messenger between the brain and the body's other systems. Spinal cord injury happens when something interferes with the function or structure of the cord.  A medical condition or trauma that causes the nerves to be overstretched, a bump, the vertebral column pressing on the spinal cord, a shock wave, electrocution, tumors, infection, poisoning, oxygen deprivation (ischemia), cutting, or ripping of the nerves are examples of this. As a fetus develops, spinal cord injuries can occur from diseases or trauma.

Depending on the type and location of the injury, the results of a spinal cord injury can vary. The most frequent is the loss of motor, sensory, and autonomic nerve function, which causes some of the body's internal organs to function more slowly below the site of the damage. Function, sensation, and internal bodily functions are generally more impaired by injuries that occur higher in the spinal cord.

What Are The Different Types Of Spinal Cord Injuries?

Healthcare professionals categorize various types of spinal cord injury in two ways: based on how the injury impacts your spinal cord and where it occurs inside your spinal cord. Anywhere below the site of the event, nerve signal flow can be disrupted by a spinal cord injury.

A. The following are the different types of spinal cord injuries (SCI) based on the severity of the condition:

  • Complete spinal cord injury: A complete spinal cord injury results in permanent damage to the affected spinal cord region. Whole spinal cord damage can cause tetraplegia (an injury that affects all four limbs)or paraplegia (an injury that affects the lower half of the body).
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury: Partial spinal cord damage is referred to as an incomplete spinal cord injury. The damaged area of the spine and its severity determine the affected area's range of motion and degree of feeling. Results are determined by the health and medical background of the patient.

B. The following are the different types of spinal cord injuries based on the location:

  • Cervical spinal injury:  The cervical spine is the upper part of the spine that contains the neck's vertebrae. Cervical spine injuries are typically the most severe type of spinal cord injuries as they are located closest to the brain and can damage most of the body.  Tetraplegia, often called quadriplegia, is a common result of cervical spine injuries. It is characterized by complete or partial paralysis of the body and all four limbs.
  • Thoracic spinal injury:  The thoracic spine involves the upper and middle parts of the back. An injury to the thoracic spine frequently affects the muscles of the lower back, legs, and abdomen. A thoracic spine injury can result in paraplegia, which is the paralysis of portions of the trunk and legs. Even though they are paraplegic, they can still utilize their hands and arms.
  • Lumbar spinal injury:  The lowest main segment of the spine is called the lumbar spine. Because they bear more weight than the vertebrae in other parts of the spine, the vertebrae in this segment are larger.  A lumbar spine injury patient often keeps control of their upper body but may lose some function in their hips and legs. Some lumbar spine injury patients may be able to walk in a wheelchair or with braces.
  • Sacral spinal injury: The area that lies just above the tailbone is called the sacral spine. The region of the hips, groin, and backs of the thighs are under the control of the nerves that emerge from this section of the spinal cord.  A sacral spine injury may result in partial hip and leg function loss. Additionally, it might impair bowel and bladder control. Still, many persons who have suffered sacral spine damage are able to walk.

What Are The Causes For Different Types Of Spinal Cord Injuries?

The following are the causes of spinal cord injuries:

  • Falls 
  • Accidents
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Violence related injuries
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Certain medical conditions like polio and spina bifida
  • Infections 
  • Genetic conditions and autoimmune diseases
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Cysts in the spinal cord

What Are The Symptoms Of Spinal Cord Injuries:

The symptoms of a spinal cord injury vary for different individuals depending on the affected signals. It may affect three different kinds of signals: autonomic, motor, and sensory.

  • Sensory symptoms: You get information in your brain through sensory signals. They communicate information to your brain about your physical surroundings and health. These include pain, tingling, and numbness.
  • Motor symptoms: Motor signals travel from your brain to your muscles, through which your brain controls various bodily movements. These symptoms include weakness, spasticity, and paralysis.
  • Autonomic symptoms: These include disruption in heart rate and blood pressure, bowel and bladder incontinence, erectile dysfunction (loss of sexual function), and hypothermia. 

Treatment For Spinal Cord Injuries:

The patient is put on a backboard with a neck brace as soon as possible after suffering a spinal cord injury to assist in stabilizing the spine. Until someone is skilled in taking the safety measures that will shield the spine from additional harm, no one should move the patient. Emergency care is necessary for spinal cord injuries since they can be potentially fatal.

A physical examination and an MRI or CT scan to verify the condition of the spine are two of the initial procedures performed in the emergency room. Treatment will be guided by the findings of these tests. Your spinal cord may need rapid surgery to achieve stabilization if it is unstable, meaning that the bony vertebrae are not able to protect it. The most common surgical technique is the use of rods or plates to keep the bones together. If you have further wounds or health problems, the spine surgery might not happen until your life is stabilized.

Rehabilitative therapy will continue at an appropriate level in the intensive care unit (ICU) following surgery. Body mobility and safety precautions will be included in this. Further functional electrical stimulation (FES) to supply input to the muscles and nerves below the level of damage may also be necessary. To keep skin, bowel, and bladder functions intact, adaptive equipment will be given.  The patient will either be sent straight to a rehabilitation center where their recuperation will continue, or they will be placed in an inpatient nursing unit. Improvements in your body or through the utilization of adaptable equipment lead to advancements in your treatment.

The next stage is to move into your house or the place where you will reside. Through independent therapy programmes, home therapy, or outpatient treatment, rehabilitation will continue. Therapy must be continued throughout life in order to preserve function and advance. Maintaining your level of exercise is crucial to your lifelong treatment, even if it means continuing therapy alone without the assistance of a therapist. Maintaining your health is essential for increasing function and preparing you for new therapies when they become available.

Following a spinal cord injury, counseling and psychotherapy may be helpful in addressing emotional distress. Recovering more quickly will also result from asking friends and family for daily assistance and emotional support.


One of the most serious and disruptive injuries you might have is a spinal cord injury (SCI), which can have lifelong consequences. Nevertheless, there is still hope for more potent therapies for these injuries thanks to continuous research and advancements in medical care. This indicates that a large number of individuals with these injuries are able to adjust to and control their side effects. Visit our IBS hospital to receive the best care and expertise in treating spinal cord injuries. Book your appointment now!


Q: What are the most common spinal cord injuries? 

A: The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Centre (NSCISC) reports that incomplete tetraplegia and paraplegia are the two most common types of spinal cord injuries, with incomplete spinal cord injuries making up more than 65% of all spinal cord injuries.

Q: What is the most effective treatment for spinal cord injury? 

A: Surgery. In order to remove bone fragments, foreign objects, herniated discs, or broken vertebrae that may compress the spine, surgery is frequently required. Additionally, spine stabilization surgery can stop pain and issues in the future.

Dr Aaksha Shukla By -Dr Aaksha Shukla | May 29, 2024 | 9 Min Read

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