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What do I need to know about spinal cord injuries?

Suffering from a spinal cord injury is likely going to bring up a lot of questions. For someone who was recently injured, some of these questions might center around some of the specifics of this type of injury.

Having a basic understanding about how the spinal cord functions and how certain types of injuries might impact you can often help to answer some of these. Here are some quick answers to questions you might have:

Why does the location of the injury matter?

The location of the injury matters because it determines what areas of the body will be impacted by the injury. The areas of the body that are affected are always lower than the level of the injury. An injury in the neck could impact both arms, both legs and your trunk. An injury in the lower back won't affect the arms, but it could impact the legs. Cervical spine injuries occur in just over half of spinal cord injury cases. Around one-third of cases occur in the thoracic region. The remainder of them occur in the lumbar area.

What does complete or incomplete injury mean?

A complete injury means that you won't have any function or feeling in the area affected by the injury. An incomplete injury means that you will have some, even if it is very limited, feeling and function in the impacted areas. Typically, a complete injury costs more in the long term than an incomplete injury.

Who is most likely to have a spinal cord injury?

Only one out of every five spinal cord injury victims are females, so you are much more likely to have one if you are a male. People who are in their teens and early twenties are the age group most likely to suffer a spinal cord injury.

Source: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "Spinal cord injury," accessed Nov. 24, 2017

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