Did you know that car crashes are the most common cause of spinal injuries in the United States? 

A spinal cord injury can greatly affect your life, leading to permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions. Spinal injuries, whether from a car crash or severe fall, have lasting physical, emotional, and social effects. 

Here are the risks and effects of a spinal injury, and how you can cope with and manage them. 

What is a spinal injury?

When your spinal cord is injured, it disrupts the communication pathway between your brain and your body. Your spinal cord, extending from the lower part of the brain to the lower back, carries signals that control sensation, movement, strength, and many other bodily functions. Whether an injury affects your spinal cord directly or the surrounding vertebrae and tissue, it can lead to temporary or permanent changes in these functions. 

Symptoms of a spinal injury can vary based on the severity and location of the injury. These symptoms can include partial or complete loss of sensory function or motor control in the arms, legs, and body. More severe injuries can impact critical bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Chronic pain is frequently experienced by individuals with spinal cord injuries. 

Common signs of a spinal cord injury also include: 

  • Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes.
  • Extreme back pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back. 
  • Weakness, incoordination, or paralysis in any part of the body. 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control. 
  • Difficulty with balance and walking. 
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back. 

The extent of disability from a spinal cord injury depends on its location. Higher spinal injuries can cause paralysis throughout the body, while lower injuries may result in limited paralysis of the legs and lower body. 

If you or someone you know experiences significant trauma to the head or neck, it is crucial to seek immediate medical evaluation for a potential spinal injury. It’s important to assume that trauma victims have a spinal injury until proven otherwise because serious spinal injuries are not always immediately apparent. Delaying treatment can lead to more severe injuries and complications. 

What other types of damage result from spinal injuries?

Sadly, individuals with spinal injuries face a higher risk of premature death. Factors like injury severity, age, health, and access to timely medical care contribute to this increased risk.  

When a spinal cord injury occurs, it can result in both primary and secondary damage. Primary damage happens immediately after the injury, while secondary damage arises from inflammation, swelling, and changes in cellular activity.  

Secondary damage includes urinary tract infections, muscle spasms, osteoporosis, pressure ulcers, chronic pain, and respiratory system diseases, can also be debilitating and even life-threatening.  

To improve the health of individuals with secondary spinal cord injury conditions, prompt pre-hospital management, early recognition of spinal cord injury, spine immobilization, and ongoing healthcare based on injury severity are crucial. 

What is the social and economic impact of a spinal injury on your life?

Spinal cord injuries have many more far-reaching consequences. A spinal cord injury often leads to dependence on caregivers and reliance on assistive technology for mobility, communication, self-care, and domestic activities. Additionally, 20-30% of people with a spinal cord injury experience symptoms of depression, which can hinder their overall health and functional improvements. 

Negative attitudes, misconceptions, and physical barriers can exclude individuals with spinal injuries from participating in society. Children with spinal injuries face academic challenges and lower enrollment rates compared to their peers, while adults encounter barriers to economic participation, resulting in a global unemployment rate of over 60%

Plus, the cost burden associated with spinal cord injury is substantial, with the level and severity of the injury playing a vital role in determining expenses. While initial medical expenses can be high, indirect costs such as lost earnings often surpass direct costs. 

Compared to conditions like dementia, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries incur higher costs. If you’re suffering from such an injury, don’t shoulder the financial burden alone. Seek the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney to recover the full value of your injury and get your life back to normal. 

The majority of the information for this article was sourced from The Mayo Clinic. Please consult with your doctor(s) before making any medical decisions.