Skip to main content

Spinal Cord Injuries: Common Types and How to Cope

Spinal cord injuries or disease (SCI/D) can be devastating, both for the person who suffered the injury and their loved ones. Since the spinal cord relays messages between the brain and the rest of the body, damage to the spinal cord can cause loss of function, mobility, or sensation in parts of the body below the point of injury.

No two SCIs are the same. There are different causes, symptoms, and therapies for SCIs, but one thing they all have in common is a major life change that can sometimes be permanent.

“Adjustment to disability will be different for each individual,” says Danielle Housman, an occupational therapy patient educator at Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital. “Professionals must respect where each patient and family member is in the adjustment and grieving process and meet them there.”

Types of spinal cord injuries

When to Seek Care

The time between injury and medical care plays a crucial part in recovery and complications. If anyone has experienced significant trauma to the head, neck, or back, it’s best to err on the side of caution and see a doctor. Emergency symptoms of an SCI include:

  • Extreme pain in the head, neck, or back
  • Weakness or paralysis in any part of the body
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your extremities
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Difficulty breathing

“When in doubt, emergency care should always be sought,” Housman says. “If an SCI has occurred due to trauma, the primary goal of care is to decompress the spinal cord as quickly as possible to prevent further neurological damage.”

Experiencing an SCI is traumatic and life changing. Your doctor will work with you to find the best rehabilitation programs and emotional support groups so that you can continue to have the best quality of life possible.