Spinal Cord Injuries
Brief and general description of injury levels.
The types of disability associated with SCI vary greatly
depending on the severity of the injury, the segment of
the spinal cord at which the injury occurs, and which
nerve fibers are damaged. Most people with SCI regain
some functions between a week and 6 months after injury,
but the likelihood of spontaneous recovery diminishes
after 6 months. Rehabilitation strategies can minimize
level of injury is very helpful in predicting what parts
of the body might be affected by paralysis and loss of
function. Remember that in incomplete injuries there
will be some variation in these prognoses.
Neck: Cervical (neck) injuries usually result in
C-1 to C-4: These very high injuries (C-1, C-2)
can result in a loss of many involuntary functions
including the ability to breathe, necessitating
breathing aids such as mechanical ventilators or
C-5: C-5 injuries often result in shoulder and
biceps control, but no control at the wrist or hand.
C-6: C-6 injuries generally yield wrist control, but no
C-7 and T-1: Individuals with C-7 and T-1
injuries can straighten their arms but still may have
dexterity problems with the hand and fingers. Injuries
at the thoracic level and below result in paraplegia,
with the hands not affected.
T-1 to T-8: At T-1 to T-8 there is most often
control of the hands, but poor trunk control as the
result of lack of abdominal muscle control.
T-9-T12: Lower T-injuries (T-9 to T-12) allow good truck
control and good abdominal muscle control. Sitting
balance is very good. Lumbar and Sacral injuries yield
decreasing control of the hip flexors and legs.
Besides a loss of sensation or motor functioning,
individuals with SCI also experience other changes. For
example, they may experience dysfunction of the bowel
and bladder,. Men with SCI may have their fertility
affected, while women's fertility is generally not
Other effects of SCI may include low blood pressure,
inability to regulate blood pressure effectively,
reduced control of body temperature, inability to sweat
below the level of injury, and chronic pain.