If you have suffered a spinal cord injury (the nerve bundle that goes from the base of the brain to the tailbone and is protected by the bony “vertebrae” of the spine), the extent of your injuries depends on at what level of the spinal cord you were injured. If you were injured in the “cervical” vertebrae—the 7 vertebrae at the top of the spinal cord—you will be paralyzed from the point of injury downward.
A person whose spinal cord is severed or compressed at the cervical level is known as a “quadriplegic”. If the break is at the third cervical vertebrae (C-3) or higher, the victim will usually require artificial means of breathing for the rest of his or her life. If the break is at the C-4 level or below, the person will be able to breathe on his or her own. If the break is at C-7 (the lowest of the cervical vertebrae), the injured victim is considered to be functionally independent, even though he or she cannot fully move his or her fingers.
Below the seven cervical vertebrae are the 12 “thoracic” vertebrae and five “lumbar” vertebrae. A spinal cord injury at a thoracic or lumbar vertebrae results in paralysis below the point of injury. A person who is paralyzed from the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae down is known as a paraplegic.
Spinal cord injury at any level of the spinal cord is a devastating injury having a major impact on the person’s physical abilities and enjoyment of life. The victim of a spinal cord injury must also face the increased risk of developing bed sores (decubitus ulcers) that can become infected and life threatening. Spinal cord injury victims—especially quadriplegics—are also at increased risk of developing pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease is a degenerative muscle disease that effects the motor neurons which control muscle movement. Commonly referred to as ALS, muscles deteriorate and shrink as a result of disappearing motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. The muscle atrophy leads to severe physical problems. The ability of the movement diminishes and eventually is totally lost. Patients may become totally paralyzed as a result and often resulting in death.
Arterial Blockage: Artery disease typically causes blockage in the carotid arteries which transport blood to the brain. Any blockage in the arteries constricts the flow of blood traveling through the body causing symptoms such as light-headedness, dizziness or more serious effects such as paralysis or death.
Brachial Plexus Injury: Avulsion, Rupture, Neuroma and Neuropraxia are the four types of Brachial Plexus injuries. These injuries may result from a stretch, tear, or rupture of the nerves from the spine. Brachial Plexus may result in paralysis.
Brain Injury: There are many types of brain injuries that can cause paralysis. Since brain injuries can result from car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, asphyxiation and other types of serious injuries, brain injuries will be discussed in detail at the brain injury article.
Cerebral Palsy: Caused by trauma or damage to the brain cerebral palsy is an incurable disease. Unlike other brain injuries, cerebral palsy is non-progressive. Categorized as Ataxic, Dyskinetic and Spactic, cerebral palsy is common in children and can result in total paralysis.
Friedreich’s Ataxia: Unlike other diseases discussed here, Friedreich’s Ataxia is an inherited disease which may cause trouble in coordination, muscle deterioration, loss of sensation in the extremities and can even cause total paralysis and heart disease. Bones may become weak causing various bone disorders including scoliosis.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Typically the cause of a gastrointestinal viral infection, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a disease that debilitates the bodies immune system causing muscle paralysis. This disease is neither inheritable or contagious. Often times, Guillain-Barre Syndrome can be the result of food poisoning.
Motor Neuron Disease: Many different types of physical injuries or accidents can cause motor neuron disease. Motor neuron disease effects the upper and lower motor neurons causing loss in movement, speech, swallowing and breathing.
Multiple Sclerosis: Typically referred to as MS, multiple sclerosis can result in the attack of an individuals respiratory and immune systems causing various problems such as dimishment in speech and coordination, muscle atrophy and weakness, visual and sensation problems and even paralysis. MS can be either genetic or environmental. Viral infections that attack the immune system are believed to be one cause of MS.
Muscular Distrophy: This disease is a genetic one that causes muscular dystrophy as a result of the defect of protein in the bones and muscle cell tissues. Paralysis as a result of muscular dystrophy can be a very serious condition which has no known cure. While there is no treatment which can cure muscular dystrophy, some believe that physical activity and therapy can help.
Nerve Compression: A very painful condition can be nerve compression. This can result in the sciatic nerve being pinched or pressured by any of the disc’s in the lower back/spinal cord. The pressure on a nerve root can lead to ischemia. Some severe cases of nerve compression may lead to paralysis.
Poliomyelitis: An infectious disease, poliomyelitis can be transferred between humans with infected blood streams. The poliomyelitis virus destroys the motor neurons causing muscle weakness and paralysis.
Post-Polio Syndrome: After the poliomyelitis disease, survivors are effected by the same symptoms as poliomyelitis. Paralysis and paraplegia are not atypical of this devastating disease.
Spinal Cord Injury: Any type of spinal cord injury can be painful and devastating. In more serious cases, spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis and paraplegia, leaving the victim helpless. Many spinal cord injuries occur in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, bus accidents and other motor vehicle and transportation carriers.
Stroke: A stroke is caused by a blockage or insufficient flow of blood to the brain causing the victim to suffer from paralysis or paraplegia. Typically, the victim is effected on one side of the body.
Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Bleeding of the brain causing trauma and paralysis. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage can be caused by a weakness in the arteries of the brain. Spinal cord and tumors may also contribute to this disease.
Syringomyelia / Tethered Cord: Effecting the spinal cord, Syringomyelia is a tumor like cyst that erodes the spinal cord and its connection to the brain. Loss of muscle control and sensation may occur. Paralysis can result from Syringomyelia.
Transient Ischemic Attack: Similar to a stroke, a transient ischemic attack is a result of a blockage of blood to the brain. Lasting less than a full stroke, transient ischemic attacks can result in paralysis.
Transverse Myelitis: Caused by the inflammation of the spinal cord, transverse myelitis is caused by the infection or deterioration of the bodies immune system. This neurological disease can cause severe paralysis.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the complexities of spinal cord injuries and their associated problems immediately so he or she can start working right away to obtain all the monetary compensation you are entitled to.