Understanding Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury 


doctor looking at xray of traumatic spinal cord injury

A traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) can be devastating, both neurologically and physically. Spinal cord injuries can lead to extensive complications and almost always entail months and months physical therapy, doctor’s visits, and possible surgery. 

Your spinal cord is a key component to your central nervous system. It’s a fragile, tube-like collection of nerves protected by the spinal column (usually referred to as the backbone or spine). Your spinal cord is responsible for sending sensory information back and forth from the body to the brain. Sensory information such as heat, cold, or pain are sent via tracts (groups of nerves and cells throughout the spinal column). 

What is a Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury?

Injury to the spinal cord can occur in a number of ways. Damage to the spinal column, displaced disks, fractured vertebrae, disease, and other trauma can all affect the tissues surrounding your spinal cord, leading to injury. Traumatic spinal cord injury often entails partial or complete loss of movement or feeling in the body.

Traumatic spinal cord injuries are typically broken down into three sections. Long-term damage depends on what area of the spinal column is affected.


Cervical SCIs affect the neck. These types of injuries commonly impair breathing and arm function. Individuals who have suffered a cervical spinal cord injury may suffer from labored or difficult breathing.

Thoracic and Lumbar

Injury to the mid and low back is typically associated with impaired or complete loss of leg function, bowel movement, torso movement, and sexual function. 

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

The majority of spinal cord injuries are sustained in motor accidents. According to 2020 data presented by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center 38.6% of all traumatic spinal cord injuries were sustained as a result of a motor accident. Following car accidents, slips and falls were responsible for approximately 32.2% of all spinal cord injuries. Acts of violence, sports related injuries, and degenerative diseases like cancer can also cause spinal cord injuries. 

Neurological Damage Following a SCI

Like we mentioned earlier, your spinal cord is made up of tracts of nerves that send sensory messages from the brain to the body (and vice versa). When your spinal cord is damaged, these neural pathways can get damaged, too.

That means that in addition to temporary or permanent paraplegia (partial or total paralysis below the area of impact) or tetraplegia (mobilization from the neck down), your body’s ability to send and receive sensory information can be damaged or destroyed.

The ability to feel heat or cold can be lost, as well as the ability to feel pain. 

Sadly, in many cases these losses are permanent. 

Recovery and Adapting After a SCI

The road of recovery and healing after a spinal cord injury is long and fraught with hardship. In addition to surgeries and doctors visits, many victims require months or years of therapy to recover and relearn motor skills, depending on the severity of the injury. There are many different kinds of therapies designed to help SCI victims recover. 

Physical therapy: Physical therapy is meant to help build muscles and move the body in a way that promotes healing and helping patients regain the strength they had before their accident.

Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy helps patients regain and refine fine motor skills needed for daily activity and personal care. This type of therapy helps patients adapt to lifestyle changes and learn how to adapt to changes such as self-care, using the bathroom, getting in and out of bed on their own, etc. 

Vocational Rehab: Vocational rehab helps patients figure out what options are available to them for work following a SCI and helping them identify accommodations they may need in the workplace

Pursuing Spinal Cord Injury Claims

If you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury at the hand of another individual, talk to a tacoma personal injury attorney about pursuing compensation. 

Spinal cord injuries are often life-changing events, the effects of which aren’t limited to just physical injury. 

The medical bills associated with spinal cord injuries, including surgeries, physical therapy, other forms of rehab, and medical assistance devices like wheel-chairs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. 

Individuals who are the victim of spinal cord injury may also be unable to return to work (either in the same industry, or, for tetraplegic individuals, at all). This type of loss can lead to a significant loss of wages and financial stability that that individual otherwise wouldn’t have suffered. 

In addition to physical pain and the partial or complete loss of movement and feeling, wages, and mountains of medical debt, traumatic spinal cord injuries can lead to:

  • Sexual disfunction, even resulting in infertility
  • Depression
  • Loss of fulfillment
  • PTSD 
  • Complete reliance on caregivers

Like all personal injury claims, winning a traumatic spinal cord injury case hinges on liability. If you were injured in a car accident or fell due to the negligence of another person, you need to be able to prove that it was that negligence that caused your injuries.
Gathering evidence of medical bills, diagnoses, professional opinions, lost wages, etc. will help you prove your claim and ensure you get the maximum compensation.