The spinal cord is part of a major communication system of nerves that transmits signals between the brain and muscles in other parts of the body and the organs. If it becomes damaged, the results can vary from incomplete to complete paralysis or loss of function of the area served by that part of the system.
The spinal cord itself contains a network of 31 pairs of nerves that connect to the arms, legs, chest and abdomen. It extends from the bottom of the brain, down through the backbone to those other areas of the body. These nerves control your arms, legs, breathing, heart rate, bowels and bladder. This is how your brain receives information from the senses of touch, pain, position and temperature.
The backbone, called the vertebrae, protects the spinal cord, which is contained inside the spinal canal in this skeletal structure. Along the backbone are seven distinct bone sections served by the spinal cord nerves: cervical (7 for neck), thoracic (12 for chest) and lumbar (5 for lower back). When any part of this backbone becomes injured, the spinal cord may also suffer injury or be cut. This would interfere with or end any communication between that area of the body and the brain.
Spinal Cord Injury
About 12,000 spinal cord injuries occur annually in the United States. Many of these injuries occur due to motor vehicle accidents, sporting accidents or violent attacks. The injury is usually caused by trauma, loss of blood supply or a compression injury due to a tumor or infection. Younger white men are most likely to have this type of injury. The spinal cord is not able to self-repair, as other body parts may be able to do.
There are two general types of spinal cord injury: complete or incomplete. When the cord suffers complete damage in any area, there is no function below the point of injury. If the damage is incomplete, there some level of function may remain. Where the damage occurs will affect the body and area of disability. If the upper portion around the neck is injured, it may cause quadriplegia, a paralysis in both arms and both legs. If the injury occurs in the lower back, it may cause paraplegia, paralysis of both legs.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
A traumatic event can cause spinal cord injury. If the back is injured or twisted, it can damage or squeeze the spinal cord and cause injury. Damage often is due to harm from a collision, a fall, or a knife or gun attack. When someone is in a car accident and suddenly comes to a stop, their backbone may be snapped forward and back, causing damage to the spinal cord.
Some physical activities create situations where a participant could suffer spinal cord injury. Horseback riding, diving, football or rugby, parachuting and other vigorous physical sports often lead to personal injuries that occur when something goes wrong during the activity. Falls from heights, or ordinary falls by persons over age 65 can result in this type of injury. Any time the vertebrae, ligaments or disks are damaged, spinal cord injuries may occur.
Some natural, physical characteristics can also affect the spinal cord and increase risk of injury. If the spinal canal is smaller than normal, a condition known as spinal stenosis, this increases risk of injury. Getting a good blood supply to the spinal cord is another factor of importance. If a person suffers an aneurysm, compression of the blood vessel or any lengthy drop in blood pressure, it can cause spinal cord damage. Spinal cord injury can also result from other, non-traumatic causes, including diseases like arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections or disk degeneration of the spine.
Symptoms related to spinal cord injuries depend on the type of injury, whether it is complete or incomplete, and the location of the injury. With complete injury, the patient will have no function below the injury site. Patients with incomplete injuries may have some remaining function below the injury level.
When the spinal cord is injured, there will be problems with muscle function, including sensation and weakness or loss of control over muscles, bowels, bladder or sexual function. When the injury is in the upper neck area, the patient can have breathing difficulties that require assistance from a breathing machine or ventilator.
In addition to other symptoms mentioned above, the patient may exhibit exaggerated reflexes or muscle spasms, or painful stinging sensations due to the nerve damage. Immediate symptoms right after an accident may include back pain, pressure in the head and neck area, lack of coordination or paralysis, difficulty walking and with balance. The neck or back may also be positioned in an abnormal way.
To avoid additional injury, it is essential to get medical help immediately. Take care to not move the injured person or you could make the injuries worse, including permanent paralysis. Keep the person immobile, using towels or pillows on each side of the neck or head. Make sure any bleeding is stopped and do not move the person’s head or neck.
California Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
When you work with an attorney who has handled similar spinal cord injury cases successfully before, you have the best opportunity to win your case and recover compensation for accident expenses. This legal professional understands all the fine details of cases filed for spinal cord injuries. They will thoroughly investigate evidence and reports made in your case by medical personnel, police and others.
Spinal cord injuries are long-lasting and in some cases life-threatening. Specialists must be brought in and the victim usually spends a long time hospitalized and in nursing care and rehabilitation. Proper care is highly expensive and long-term. Surgery often is required, and there may be depression, pain and disruption of normal life activities and relationships. Financial issues can be devastating to a family, causing stress and sometimes even a divorce over the toll this type of injury takes on all members of the family.
Many people file Personal Injury lawsuits to recover fair monetary compensation for injuries that are due to negligent behavior on the part of some other person, a company, maintenance personnel or a manufacturer. It is not always easy to deal with insurance companies, and their representatives only want to cut costs as much as possible for their client. You are not their client; you are best served by hiring an experienced California Personal Injury Attorney.
Claims for monetary compensation may include:
- Emergency Care
- Medical Treatment, Doctor & Hospital Bills
- Special Care & Rehabilitation
- Work Loss – present & future
- Non-Monetary Claims – Pain & Suffering, Loss of Companionship/Consortium, Loss of Lifestyle Enjoyment
- Wrongful Death – Survivors may claim loss of loved one
Start on your way to recovery today, with a free consultation with our experienced Personal Injury Attorney. Call us now; we look forward to successfully helping you resolve your spinal cord injury legal matters.