Did you know that almost 300,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury in the United States every year? More than just throwing your back out, spinal cord injury is a serious and high-risk injury that can lead to paralysis and death.
It can also take a long time to recover from, even with dedicated therapy. Understanding the different spinal cord injury levels is the first step to recovery, and is an important part of seeking treatment.
If you want to learn more about the types of spinal cord injuries, read on for our brief, but complete, guide.
The highest level of spinal cord injury is the most dangerous. These injuries occur in the top four vertebrae of the spine, so in your neck just below the skull.
This level of injury often results in paralysis in the arms and legs. In addition, the patient can have trouble breathing on their own. They might have trouble controlling their bowels and are sometimes unable to speak.
They often require 24-hour care.
The next level of injury is at the base of the neck. This area can result in difficulty with motor control and paralysis of the arms and trunk.
Depending on the specific nerve impacted, the wrist, elbow, fingers, and hands may be affected. Driving will be difficult but can be managed with an adapted vehicle. The patient can also complete most daily activities.
Your thoracic spine is your mid-back, around your shoulders. Usually, arm and hand functions are unimpacted. Sometimes leg paralysis and trunk paralysis is the result.
Patients can usually manage most daily tasks with some help and specialized equipment. For example, they can drive with a modified car and stand with a frame. They might also be able to walk with braces.
Your lumbar spine is in your lower back, in your stomach area. Injuries in the lumbar area usually result in some loss of function in the legs and lower trunk. However, paralysis is not common, and with increased strength, the patient can walk again.
Injury to the sacrum occurs in the hips and usually results in some loss of function in the hips. Usually, the patient can walk again.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
With any injury, prompt and consistent treatment is key. For all of the spinal cord injury classifications, rehab is important to regain normal function. The process is frustrating but results in some of the best outcomes for spinal cord injury.
When rehabbing a spinal cord injury, you’ll work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles impacted and the muscles needed to perform modified daily tasks. With rehab, patients are able to get off of ventilators and experience reduced pain and greater independence.
Now You Understand the Spinal Cord Injury Levels
This article will have given you a good place to start when it comes to understanding the different levels of spinal cord injuries. While this type of injury is very serious, it’s not without hope. Rehab and proper treatment offer support and the best possible outcome for every patient.
If you’ve experienced a spinal cord injury, it’s worth reaching out to a rehab clinic to explore your options.
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