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What is spinal shock that occurs after a spinal cord injury?

An injury involving your spinal cord can be a very scary injury. The incidence of spinal shock can often make an already trying situation even more difficult. It is important for you to understand some basic information about spinal shock so that you can understand how this might affect you in the short term.

What is spinal shock?

Spinal shock occurs when the spinal cord begins to swell in response to an injury. This can cause the spinal cord to exhibit certain symptoms that are likely only going to be temporary. When the spinal cord swelling decreases and electrical impulses can begin to travel through the affected area again, the symptoms go away. That, however, is of little comfort when you are experiencing spinal shock.

What are some of the symptoms that might occur with spinal shock?

Spinal shock can cause some very troubling symptoms. These include a loss of sensation and movement in the arms or legs, tingling of the hands, feet, fingers and toes, and muscle spasms. In some cases, you might experience trouble breathing, headaches or pressure and stinging in the spine. Trouble balancing and difficulties with bladder and bowel control can also occur.

When does spinal shock occur?

Generally, spinal shock symptoms show up shortly after the accident, but they can become noticeable within the few hours following the accident. It is possible for the symptoms of spinal shock to be complete or partial. The care you receive after a spinal cord injury, which can be expensive and might lead you to seek compensation, can have an effect on the severity of the spinal shock symptoms and how long they remain present.

Source: GuideDoc, "Spinal Shock Symptoms, Syndrome & Treatment," Andrew Stark, accessed April 13, 2016

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