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Posted on Apr 19, 2022

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal Cord lies within the spinal canal present in each vertebra of the vertebral column that is the back bone. Injury to the vertebrae in the form of fracture or dislocation can lead to injury to spinal cord.

The effect of injury depends on

  • Degree of impact
  • Site of injury
  • Other associated injuries

Due to injury to spinal cord, the neurons and nerve fibers get affected due to which patients may have any or all of these following complaints

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury

Paralysis is a common symptom related to SCI. The types of paralysis associated with a spinal cord injury are:

  • Tetraplegia (Quadriplegia) occurs when the cervical (neck) area of the spinal cord is injured. Hollywood superstar Christopher Reeve had this type of paralysis. Quadriplegics, also known as tetraplegics, cannot move their arms or legs.
  • Paraplegia occurs when the spinal cord is damaged below the cervical spine. It may be injured in the thoracic spine (mid-back), or lumbar (low back). Although the spinal cord ends at L2, cord injury is possible at the end tip (conus) of the spinal cord and can involve the cauda equina. The cauda equina is a bunch of spinal nerves resembling a horse’s tail.
  • An isolated weakness of hands/foot in cases where in fibers of concern limb gets damaged, where as other fibers gets spared.
  • Loss of sensation below the level of injuries
  • Loss of control & sensation of urination & defecation (passing of stool)
  • Inability to perform sex
  • Pain in Neck/back depending on site of injury
  • In case of injury due to herniation of disc fragment, severe radicular pain is limb can also be present

In cases where the impact is not very severe, the spinal cord injury is temporary in nature. The weakness and loss of sensation persists for few hours or days. This temporary weakness is referred as spinal shock.

  • Inability to sit in cases of back pain of neck. Cervical injury patients will have difficulty in holding their neck and shall complain of variable degree of pain on movements of the neck
  • Symptoms associated with complications
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis- Pain in the calf or leg and breathlessness

Pressure Sore- Peeling of skin over bony prominence & local & infection

  • Chest infection
  • Spasticity- Tightness of legs/ arm
  • Flexor Spasm- involuntary movements of limbs