In Brief. A break in the back or neck can sever all or some of the nerves in the spinal column. The higher the break the more complex the damage. Open this link to examine an illustrative Spinal Cord Dermatome Image.
The Spinal Cord’s Function. The spinal cord, made up of thousands of nerves is sometimes known as the ‘information super highway’ and carries messages from the brain to every part of the body and transmits messages (e.g. of sensation, touch, temperature etc) back to the brain from each part of the body. It also coordinates complex actions such as walking, bladder and bowel management.
Illustrative Cause and Effects of SCI Spinal cord injury can result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal cord injury may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of the vertebrae. It may also result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts the spinal cord. Additional damage usually occurs over days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord. A non-traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections, or disk degeneration of the spine.
Definitions. Those individuals who break their backs, the lower part of the spine suffer paraplegia, paralysis of the trunk and legs. Those who break their necks suffer tetraplegia which means paraplegia + paralysis of the arms and hands.
Complete or Incomplete. Breaks or lesions can be complete or incomplete (partial) which means the spinal cord is only partially severed and the effects are therefore partial. An individual who suffers a complete spinal cord injury will experience complete loss of voluntary function below the lesion. All cases of spinal cord injury are unique. Two apparently similar SCI may lead to different consequent impairments.
Details of Spinal Cord Injury in the United Kingdom