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Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

Once the spinal cord has been injured, the damaged nerves can no longer send messages between the brain and the body. The effects of SCI depend on the level of injury as well as the extent of damage to the nerve fibers.

Generally, the body functions located above the level of injury will continue to work, while the body functions below the point of injury will be impaired; this means, the closer to the head the injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person is likely to experience.

Cervical Injuries

Spinal Cord Injury

Cervical injuries usually cause loss of function in the arms and legs (quadriplegia or paralysis of all four limbs). People with injuries above the C4 level may need a ventilator to breath, and C5 or C6 injuries may result in loss of hand function.

Thoracic Injuries

Injuries in the thoracic region and below can cause paraplegia (paralysis of the legs and lower body). Injuries at T-1 to T-8 most often result in poor trunk control, but hand control is unaffected. Lower T injuries (T-9 to T-12) allow good trunk control and good abdominal muscle control.

Lumbar & Sacral Injuries

Injuries in the thoracic region and below can cause paraplegia (paralysis of the legs and lower body). Injuries at T-1 to T-8 most often result in poor trunk control, but hand control is unaffected. Lower T injuries (T-9 to T-12) allow good trunk control and good abdominal muscle control.