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Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms & Types of Injury

Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
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Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Among spinal cord injury symptoms are tingling and numbness in the back and loss of sensation. It can be due to a car accident, a fall, a sports injury, or a medical condition, such as a tumor or infection. 

Spinal cord disorder has two types: complete and incomplete. The first one involves a total loss of sensory and motor function below the level of damage. The second one involves a partial loss of sensory and motor function. There are various levels of incomplete spinal cord injury:

  • anterior cord syndrome;
  • central cord syndrome;
  • Brown-Séquard syndrome;
  • cauda equina syndrome.

Signs of spinal cord injury significantly impact an individual’s life. It can result in various physical, emotional, and social effects. Prompt medical attention can play a big role in minimizing the severity of the injury. So it can improve the quality of life for those affected.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injury is a medical condition resulting from damage to the spinal cord. Or it’s a trauma of a bundle of nerves that runs down the back. When the spinal cord has damage, it can disrupt the connection between the brain and the body. It leads to a range of physical and sensory impairments. Spinal cord injury causes can be different. It includes trauma, disease, or degeneration. Besides, it has many various symptoms that interfere with everyday life. 

Depending on the level and location of the injury, patients with spinal contusions need ongoing medical intervention. It includes physical therapy, rehabilitation, and medication. It is for managing patients’ symptoms and improving their overall health. A spinal cord injury’s severity depends on the damage’s location and extent. In general, injuries to the cervical (neck) region tend to be the most severe.

To treat it, doctors need to understand the anatomy and physiology of the spinal cord deeply. Besides, they should know the various diagnostic and treatment options available for patients. Healthcare providers can better serve their patients by staying up-to-date on the latest research and developments in this field. This way, they provide more effective care for your signs of spinal cord injury. Then, it leads to better outcomes and improved quality of life.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are complete and partial signs of spinal cord injury. With the first damage to the spine, the spine is damaged in the transverse plane. In partial damage, it occurs only to the processes and arches of the vertebrae. In addition, spinal cord injuries are:

  • Uncomplicated: without impairment of the functions of the spinal cord and its roots.
  • Complicated: with severe impairment of the functions of the spinal cord.
  • Closed: without violating the integrity of the skin
  • Open: with damage to the skin near the spinal cord.
  • Penetrating: damage to the integrity of the dura mater.
  • Non-penetrating: without disruption of the spinal cord sheath.

Depending on the severity of the trauma, specialists distinguish the next types of spinal contusion:

This type of damage temporarily disrupts the conduction of specific nerve pathways. It is often manifested by muscle weakness and unexpressed disorders of sensitivity. These conditions appear immediately after the injury and persist for 1-3 weeks. 

  • Spinal cord injury

It causes swelling, hemorrhages, and softening of some regions of nerve tissue. Damages of the conduction of nerve fibers at the same time persist for a long time. Then paralysis and delays in urination and defecation appear.

  • Compression of the spinal cord

It can develop due to the compression of bone fragments. And another reason is an increase in the volume of an epidural hematoma. The development of spinal cord injury symptoms in these cases occurs gradually. It is characterized by raised motor and sensory disturbances below the injury. Besides, it has the progression of dysfunction of the pelvic organs. 

  • Spinal shock

Shock occurs immediately after the injury, and the failure of all functions appears. As a rule, it develops due to complete damage to the spine. It happens in motor, sensitive, and reflex activity. Besides, a person has a decrease in systemic vascular resistance. Then, spinal cord injury causes venous stasis.

  • Transverse damage syndrome

A transverse spinal cord injury pattern usually results from a sudden factor. It can be trauma, bleeding, or intense inflammation. Depending on the extent of the injury, a patient exhibits varying degrees of loss of mobility. Below the damaged spinal cord is complete paralysis and cancellation of any sensation within the limbs. Initially, the muscle structures are flabby and characterized by reduced tension. After some time, they begin to manifest pathological spasticity. 

spinal cord injury symptoms

How Do You Know if Your Spinal Cord Is Damaged? – Symptoms

When the spinal cord is damaged, the brain stops receiving information about the organs located below the injury area. Depending on the localization, the symptoms also vary. But the higher the spinal cord is affected, the more pronounced and severe the signs will be:

  • Loss of sensation

Spinal contusion can also cause loss of sensation in different parts of the body. 

  • Loss of movement

Depending on the extent of the injury, trauma can result in partial or complete loss of movement. It happens in the arms, legs, or other body parts.

  • Pain or discomfort

Some people with spinal cord injury experience chronic pain and muscle stiffness.

  • Muscle spasticity

Spinal cord injury causes muscle spasms or stiffness, making moving difficult.

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

It can affect the nerves that control the bladder and bowel. It leads to a loss of control over these functions.

  • Difficulty breathing

If the spinal cord injury occurs in the upper neck area, it can affect the muscles for breathing. It leads to difficulty in breathing or even respiratory failure.

  • Hypersensitivity

If you feel chronic pain and numbness, it is clearly a sign of spinal cord injury.

  • Disorders of the pelvic organs

You may experience urinary and fecal incontinence. 

With serious injuries, the so-called spinal shock develops. It is a complex damage of all spinal cord functions, lasting several months. This condition has symptoms of complete interruption of the spinal column. It makes it difficult to diagnose the degree of trauma for emergency care visually. So, if you suspect any signs of a spinal cord injury, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your chances of recovery.

What Type of Doctor Should You See?

If you have a spinal cord injury, you should see a doctor who specializes in a certain area. The next specialists have the expertise and experience to manage spinal cord injuries. So, they can provide appropriate treatment options:

  • Neurologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders. So, it includes spinal contusion. They use diagnostic tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Or they use a computed tomography (CT) scan to evaluate the extent and location of your injury.
  • Neurosurgeons are specialists who perform surgery on the brain and nervous system. They implement emergency surgery if your spinal cord injury symptoms require immediate treatment.
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) doctors, also known as physiatrists. They specialize in non-surgical cures for traumas that affect the musculoskeletal systems. They can help you manage pain and improve mobility and function. Besides, they develop a rehabilitation plan to help you recover from your trauma.

Besides these specialists, you can also work with healthcare providers. They help you manage your spinal cord injury and optimize your recovery.

A Word From Lone Star

Spinal cord injury can cause many difficulties in patients’ lives. And the severity of it can vary widely. It ranges from mild and temporary to severe and permanent. So, the main task is to identify the symptoms in time. Lone Star Neurologists can help you with this. Doctors working in neurology know how to prevent the detection of this disease and stop its worsening. Thus, contact our specialists at the slightest suspicion of a spinal cord injury.


  • What are the 5 signs of a spinal injury?

There are the main five signs of a spinal injury:

  1. Extreme back pain;
  2. Sudden changes and difficulties when walking;
  3. Numbness of the limbs or tingling in the back;
  4. Weakness, incoordination, or paralysis in any part of your body;
  5. Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • What can happen if the spinal cord is damaged?

It can cause numbness in your limbs or even complete loss of sensation in your fingers and toes. In the worst cases, it leads to paralysis of any body part.

  • What are the three types of spinal cord injuries?

There are three types of spinal cord injuries:

  1. complete and incomplete;
  2. closed and open;
  3. penetrating and non-penetrating.
  • Do spinal injuries get worse over time?

It can happen if you do not diagnose and treat your injury. If you detect the problem at an early stage, you can avoid its progression.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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