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Spinal Cord Injuries: Expert Explains Symptoms, Types, Treatment, & Complications

Spinal cord injuries occur when you hurt your spinal cord or the nerves at the end of it. It can occur due to accidents, falls, arthritis, etc.

Sushmita Sharma
Written by: Sushmita SharmaUpdated at: Jan 19, 2023 16:19 IST
Spinal Cord Injuries: Expert Explains Symptoms, Types, Treatment, & Complications

The transmission of messages from your brain to the rest of your body is done by the spinal cord. It enables you to feel your body parts, like arms and legs, and an injury may cause you to lose this sensation.

You get a spinal cord injury when you damage your spinal cord or the nerves that run along its end. It can cause complications and affect your strength and tissues or bones near it. It can occur due to accidents, falls, some cancers, arthritis, gunshot wounds, or collisions in sports. Read this article to learn the symptoms, types, treatment and complications of spinal cord injuries. Dr Shakti Amar Goel, M.B.B.S, M.S (Orthopaedics), who is also associated with Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi and Apollo Hospital, Greater Noida explains about the symptoms, types, treatment and complications of spinal cord injuries.

Symptoms Of Spinal Cord Injuries

Here are some symptoms of spinal cord injuries that you should watch out for:

  • You may witness weakness or decreased sensation in your arms and legs
  • There may be severe pain in your neck, back, or head
  • You may have difficulty in breathing
  • You may lose control over your bowel, or there may be a loss of bladder control
  • There may be a development of unusual lumps along your spine
  • You may have trouble balancing and coordination

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are two types of Spinal cord injuries. These can be 'traumatic' and 'non-traumatic'. Both traumatic and non-traumatic could be 'complete' or incomplete. Traumatic injuries occur due to trauma like road traffic accidents etc. Non-traumatic injuries can happen due to various ailments like TB of the spine, tumours etc.

Complete Injury

In this type of injury, your body below your spinal cord injury becomes paralysed, or you lose complete control over your body below the site of the injury.

Incomplete Injury

In an incomplete injury, you could have some control or feeling below the injured area of the Spinal cord.

Treatment For Spinal Cord Injuries

There is no complete treatment option for a spinal cord injury to reverse the damage to your spinal cord. However, some measures can reduce the damage caused.

Dr Goel said, "The management of Spinal cord injury depends upon the pathology and the neurological deficit. An immediate steroid injection is recommended in traumatic Spinal cord injury with neurological deficit. Early surgical intervention in cases with the neurological deficit is recommended. Surgeons usually assess the patient on various scoring criteria before taking a call for surgery."

The treatment of your injury depends upon your injury's severity and the part which is affected. In most cases, the treatment option is surgery, and the type of surgery depends upon your injury. Many people also seek physical therapy, rehabilitation, or occupation therapy. People with spinal cord injuries should frequently visit their doctor to prevent further complications.

Complications Of Spinal Cord Injury In Your Body

A spinal cord injury can impact your health in many ways. Some of the complications that can occur throughout your life are as follows:

  • You may have muscle spasms after developing spinal cord injury as it causes your muscles to contract.
  • You may have trouble walking and maintaining balance.
  • There can be trouble in muscle movements in the body. You may also lose movement of some body parts.
  • There can be loss of bowel or bladder control in people with spinal cord injuries. You will have difficulty emptying your bladder and bowels.
  • You may have trouble breathing or coughing. People with spinal cord injuries are more prone to diseases like pneumonia. 
  • There may be a loss of sexual function, or women may have difficulty getting pregnant.
  • The chances of becoming obese increase after a spinal cord injury. This is because there are changes in your lifestyle, like difficulty in walking and doing other activities.
  • Bed sores
  • Urinary infection 
  • Osteoporosis or bone weakness

Difference Between Spinal Cord Injury And Spinal Injury

Dr Goel highlighted that some people confuse spinal injury with spinal cord injury, but both could be different. A spinal injury damages the spine, bones or tissues but may not damage the spinal cord.


You should wear seatbelts in a car and wear protective gear while playing sports to lower the chances of spinal cord injuries. If you have a back injury, avoid lifting heavy objects, as it can worsen your condition or affect your spine. It can be challenging to deal with this injury, so taking help from your family and friends is advisable.