A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the tight bundle of cells and nerves that sends and receives signals from the brain to and from the rest of the body. SCI can be caused by direct injury to the spinal cord itself or from damage to the tissue and bones (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord. This damage can result in temporary or permanent changes in sensation, movement, strength, and body functions below the site of injury. Some injuries that cause little or no cell death may allow for an almost complete recovery while those that occur higher on the spinal cord and are more serious can cause paralysis in most of the body. Motor vehicle accidents and catastrophic falls are the most common causes of SCI in the United States.
An incomplete injury means the spinal cord is still able to trasnmit some messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body. A complete injury means there is no nerve communication and motor function (voluntary movement) below the site where the trauma occurred.
A spinal cord injury can cause one or more symptoms including:
Numbness, tingling, or a loss of or changes in sensation in the hands and feet.
Paralysis that may happen immediately or develop over time as swelling and bleeding affects the spinal cord.
Pain or pressure in head, neck, or back.
Loss of movement.
Weakness or inability to move any part of the body.
Unnatural positions of the spine or head.
Loss of bladder and bowel control.
Changes in sexual function.
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