Are spinal cord injuries the same as spinal column injuries?

Although spinal cord injuries and spinal column injuries often occur simultaneously, they are definitely not the same type of injury and commonly result in significantly different symptoms and disabilities. The primary difference between spinal cord injuries and spinal column injuries is that in spinal cord injuries some degree of paralysis is present.

Spinal columns are comprised of three major component groups: 1) vertebrae, or hard, bony parts; 2) intervertebral discs (discs), or the soft tissue between the vertebrae and 3) nerves and tendons. While vertebrae can become cracked and/or fractured, the more common form of spinal column injury is the result of a damaged disc. Discs are similar to a jelly donut having a hard, outer shell that contains a soft gel-like core. When the disc is subject to compression or impact, it can distort causing the disc to bulge, or in more severe cases, tear or herniate (rupture).

While not always present with disc injuries, there is most often pain accompanying a bulging or herniated disc. The pain is normally not felt in the actual disc space itself but in different areas of the body as a result of the injured disc pressing against, or pinching, a nerve. This results in pain called radicular pain or radiculopathy (e.g., nerve root pain). If the injured disc is in the cervical area, pain, numbness and/or tingling may be transmitted to the shoulders, arms and fingers. Headaches are not an uncommon result of a cervical disc injury. An injured disc in the lumbar area may cause similar radiating sensations to the hips, legs and feet.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) occurs when the body is subject to a traumatic event, such as a car crash, fall or other impact which results in damage to cells within the spinal cord or severs the nerve tracts that transmit signals up and down the spinal cord. The end result is a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. Despite popular belief, the spinal cord does not have to be severed in order for a loss of functioning to occur. In reality, most people with SCI have spinal cord which remained intact, but the damage to it still results in loss of functioning. SCI is remarkably different from spinal column such as herniated disks, spinal stenosis or pinched nerves.

Approximately 450,000 people live with SCI in the U.S. today. An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people per year in the U.S. suffer spinal cord injuries. Out of that number, approximately 10,000 of these people are permanently paralyzed. Death is not an uncommon result of a spinal cord injury. As a result of active lifestyles, most spinal cord trauma occurs to young, healthy people. The most commonly affected age and gender groups are males between 15 and 35 years of age (82%). These injuries result from motor vehicle accidents (36%), violence (28.9%), or falls (21.2%). Quadriplegia is slightly more common than paraplegia.

While the bones in the back and neck (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord can actually break, such a break will not necessarily injure the spinal cord as long as those bones do not press against, or sever, the spinal cord, and after stabilizing the break, no spinal cord injury or paralysis may occur.

Spinal cord injuries fall mainly into two classifications: Complete and Incomplete.

A complete injury results in total absence of function below the level where the injury was sustained: no sensation and no voluntary movement. In a complete injury both sides of the body are equally affected.

An incomplete injury differs in that there is some functioning below the initial point of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than another, may be able to feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other. With the advances in acute treatment of SCI, incomplete injuries are becoming more common.

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 long-term disability.

If you have been involved in an accident that resulted in a TBI of spinal column injury, the injury and necessary treatment can be significant and confusing. What rights and benefits you may be entitled to can be equally confusing. You need the advice and counsel of an attorney that has experience with TBI and spinal injuries, is aggressive and not afraid to fight with the insurance company to secure everything you deserve. Dan Newlin & Partners are such attorneys. Call Dan Newlin & Partners for a free consultation and learn about the complex area of the law surrounding TBI and spine injuries. Insurance companies have attorneys whose job it is to give you as little as possible to settle your injury claim. You need an attorney by your side to help you receive all you are entitled to compensate you for your medical bills, pain and suffering. Please call Dan Newlin & Partners right away at (407) 888-8000.