Spinal cord injury

The spinal cord acts as a conduit between the brain and the rest of the body, transporting neurological impulses to sense the world, move, and carry out parasympathetic (unconscious) functions. Damage done to the spine can affect any or all of those activities.

The spine is divided into four parts. The area that starts at the top of the spine - from where the skull meets the spine, down to the neck - is known as the cervical spine. Heading down from the neck through the chest area, the next four vertebrae comprise the thoracic spine. Moving down the back, the next five vertebrae comprise the lumbar spine. Finally, the last five vertebrae heading down to the coccyx comprise the sacral vertebrae. Spinal cord injuries can impact any or all of these regions.

Spine injuries are regarded as complete or incomplete. This designation has less to do with the severity of the symptoms than it has to do with the damage done to a particular region of the spine. In a complete injury, the brain's neurological signals cannot pass beyond the damaged area. In an incomplete injury, some of the signals can pass.

Just as each person is unique, so is each spinal cord injury: different injuries lead to different symptoms and every accident is unique in its complications. However, common complaints include:

  • numbness in the hands, feet, head, or neck
  • tingling sensations in the extremities
  • difficulty breathing
  • strange bumps along the vertebrae or on the head or neck
  • extreme tension in the neck or anywhere along the spine
  • paralysis or loss of control over parts of the body, particularly the extremities.

Spinal cord injury affects not only the victim but their family as well. The ramifications and challenges can seem daunting; the roles and the relationships of family members can change, and their needs are often overlooked.

If you are the victim of a spinal cord injury, of course no-one else is experiencing exactly what you are going through, but there are many people, organisations and charities that are there for you. They have witnessed other people's journeys through similar situations and can help you cope with and adjust to the changes created by the spinal cord injury. You are not on your own: they can support and guide you through each challenge ahead.

Like us, there are other people who care, and we are happy to help put you in touch with these organisations.