close up of a spinal cord x-ray

How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Affect the Body?

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can be some of the most devastating trauma a person can sustain. These catastrophic injuries can sharply limit mobility, leading to numerous surgeries, medical procedures, long-term rehabilitative care, and even death. But what exactly happens to the body after a spinal cord injury? Several factors come into play.


Typically, spinal cord injuries result in paralysis. However, every spinal cord injury is different, and therefore, the severity of paralysis may vary.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Victims suffering from complete spinal cord injuries have lost all functionality and sensitivity in the affected limbs. The nerves used for mobility have been completely severed, and the damaged body parts cannot be moved. Although treatment may revitalize some movement, the limbs cannot be restored to their original state.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete, or partial spinal cord injuries, are not as severe as their counterparts. In these cases, the nerves have been significantly damaged or partially severed. This means that while the affected limbs may have limited mobility and dulled sensitivity, they have not lost all functionality.


The severity of nerve damage plays a huge role in a spinal cord injury, but so does the site of the injury. The body reacts differently depending on what part of the spinal cord is damaged.


This type of paralysis is also called quadriplegia and affects all four extremities. Typically this injury results from damage in the cervical region, located in the neck.


This type of paralysis results from an injury lower in the lumbar or thoracic region. Paraplegia affects the extremities of the body below the injury site—usually the legs and feet.

Anterior Cord Syndrome

This is an incomplete injury that occurs in the anterior two-thirds of the spinal cord, typically damaging sensory and motor pathways. This condition often results in tetraplegia or paraplegia depending on the injury site, although some cases may be less severe.

Central Cord Syndrome

This injury occurs when the nerve fibers that carry information from the cerebral cortex to the spinal cord are damaged. Often this results in a more pronounced paralysis of the upper extremities. Central cord syndrome usually causes incomplete paralysis.


Understanding the nature of spinal cord injuries is important, but so is determining what causes them. Accidents can cause an SCI, as can an undiagnosed infection that compresses the spinal cord or another impingement on the spinal cord. Some of the accidents that can cause an SCI include:

Vehicle Accidents

Whiplash can play a major role in a spinal cord injury. When a motorist is hit by another vehicle, especially in a rear-end collision, the impact propels the body forward, causing the head to suddenly lurch back and forth. This trauma can damage the spine and result in an SCI. If such an injury occurs due to the negligence of another driver or a trucker, the victim may be entitled to compensation.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, and there’s no certainty of where a person will land or what body part they will land on. When someone’s feet are knocked out from under them, there’s a high chance some area of the spine will bear the brunt of the fall.

If an individual’s slip and fall accident results in an SCI, it’s important to identify the cause of the accident. If poor premises maintenance, a lack of caution signs, or another sign of negligence is behind the incident, the corresponding parties may be liable.

Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are responsible for a number of SCIs, especially those that involve impact collisions. High contact sports often use equipment that helps protect against such injuries. However, if this equipment is not properly maintained or has a flawed design, any resulting injuries could warrant legal action.

Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers

SCIs can have devastating effects on a person’s life for years to come. If you or a loved one has suffered an SCI due to another party’s negligence, our team is here to help. We have extensive experience advocating for victims of catastrophic injuries, and we will fight to secure the compensation you deserve. Serious injuries deserve serious action. McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A. is ready and waiting.

Call McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A. at (505) 405-4441 to schedule a free consultation.


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