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Are there many types of spinal cord injuries?

Just the same as any other body part, the spinal cord can be injured in a number of ways. It can be damaged by dislocation, fractures, compression, hyperflexion, or hyperextension.

Any spinal cord injury, regardless of the type, can cause the person serious harm, including paralysis.

Here are the four primary types of spinal cord injury:

-- Cervical spinal cord injury

-- Thoracic spinal cord injury

-- Lumbar spinal cord injury

-- Sacral spinal cord injury

With a lumbar spinal cord injury, for example, the person could suffer from paralysis as well as loss of sensation and sexual dysfunction. While the hands, arms, and shoulders are not typically affected, lower parts of the body will be. This can include the legs, feet, and genital organs.

There is also a difference between a complete and incomplete spinal cord injury. With a complete injury, there is a total lack of function below the level of the injury. With an incomplete injury, the person retains some ability to send and receive messages to or from the brain.

One spinal cord injury is not likely to be exactly the same as another. For this reason, treatment immediately following the injury, as well as future treatment, are not typically identical.

A spinal cord injury can result from incidents such as a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or sports collision. The cause of the injury does not matter. What matters is that the person understands the type of injury suffered, as well as how this will impact one's body now as well as in the future.

Source: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, "What is my injury all about, and what is meant by complete vs. incomplete?," accessed April. 29, 2015

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