No one need tell you that you can suffer serious injuries in a car crash. Some of them, such as a spinal cord injury, can change your life forever. By definition, an SCI constitutes an injury to your spinal cord, usually caused by the crushing of one or more of the vertebrae that enclose your spinal cord itself.
SCIs can be complete or incomplete depending on the amount of damage your spinal cord receives. A complete SCI results in the loss of all voluntary movement and sensation below your point of injury. An incomplete SCI leaves you with at least a little movement and sensation below that point. Either way, you likely will spend the remainder of your life in a wheelchair.
How much paralysis you suffer depends on where your injury occurs. The Mayfield Clinic lists the following regions of your back and the vertebrae located in each:
- Seven cervical vertebrae in your neck
- Twelve thoracic vertebrae between your neck and your waist
- Five lumbar vertebrae between your waist and the bottom of your back
- Five fused sacral vertebrae in your hip region
- Four fused coccyx vertebrae composing your tailbone
Paraplegia versus quadriplegia
The higher your SCI, the more paralysis you suffer. Lumbar and lower thoracic level SCIs leave your legs, feet and lower torso paralyzed, resulting in your becoming a paraplegic. Not only will you be unable to stand or walk, you may not be able to control the muscles in your bladder and bowel.
Cervical and upper thoracic level SCIs leave your arms, hands, legs, feet and virtually all of your torso paralyzed, resulting in your becoming a quadriplegic. You can do little, if anything, to take care of yourself and must rely on others to constantly care for you.