What to Expect after a Spinal Cord Injury

Prolapse of intervertebral disc closeup 3d image

More than 265,000 Americans are living with a spinal cord
injury, and there are up to 12,500 new cases each year. This life-changing
injury can leave you feeling overwhelmed by all of the information from your
doctors, caregivers and loved ones.

Life will be
very different from here on out, but no one – not even your doctors – can say
with absolutely certainty what your future will hold.

The Location of the Injury

Spinal cord
injuries are often unpredictable, but knowing the location of your injury can
help you get a better idea what life changes you will face and what your
recovery will entail.

spinal cord injuries, which affect the top of the spinal cord, are the most
severe. As the injury moves down the spine, the effects become less
life-threatening and less likely to result in permanent paralysis.

important thing to consider is whether the injury is complete or incomplete. A
complete injury will result in a fully compressed or severed spinal cord, which
reduces the odds of a full recovery. An incomplete injury offers better

“A complete
spinal cord injury results in paralysis below the point of trauma, leaving a
person without feeling or movement,” says Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers. “A ‘complete’ spinal cord injury
means there is complete loss of movement and feeling below the level of the
injury. In other words, messages from the brain cannot be received past the
area that you hurt.”

No matter
the location or whether it’s a complete or incomplete injury, your attitude and
lifestyle choices will play a significant role in your recovery.

Physical and Mental Changes

Spinal cord
injuries undoubtedly will affect your physical capabilities. Paralysis is one
potential symptom, but you may also experience other symptoms, depending on the
location and nature of your injury, including:

  • Pain at the injury site
  • Difficulty controlling the bladder or bowels
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Difficulty with sexual function, fertility and arousal
  • Tingling sensations
  • Changed sensations throughout the body
  • Difficulty breathing without assistance
  • Skin problems

A spinal
cord injury can also increase your risk of other health conditions, including
skin infections and obesity. The primary cause of death following a spinal cord
injury is respiratory infection that progresses into pneumonia.

changes aren’t the only thing that you will experience. Mental health
challenges are common among spinal cord injury sufferers. The mind and body are
inexplicitly linked, and your mental health will impact your physical health.
The challenges of living with this type of traumatic injury can lead to
depression and anxiety. Some medications may also impact the way your brain
processes neurotransmitters, which can make you more vulnerable to mental
health issues.

important to have psychological support following a spinal cord injury, so
it’s important to seek therapy or even enroll in a support group.

therapy really does work, and many patients with a spinal cord injury can
better overcome their physical and mental struggles by taking action. Physical
therapy has the power to rewire the brain and the spine. There are no
guarantees, but everyone makes at least a little progress through physical