Complete vs Incomplete spinal cord injury

If there is no sensation or movement below injury site then such injury is known as complete spinal cord injury. In such injury spinal cord is severely damaged or transacted and chances of improvement are uncommon. But if some sensation or movements in body are still there below injury then such injury is known as incomplete spinal cord injury. In such injury, damage to spinal cord is partial or there is low compression. Patients show signs of improvement in incomplete injury after that initial period of swelling of spinal cord is over. These improvements come months and in some cases even years after spinal cord injury.

Causes of spinal cord injury

Some major causes of spinal cord injury are listed below.

1.Fall from roof.

2.Road accidents.

3.Shallow water diving.

4.Natural disasters like earthquakes and storms.

5.Diseases and surgical complications.

6.Spinal cord tumor.

7.Birth defects.

8.Bone disease.

9.Bullet hit injury.


spinal cord injury types


Quadriplegia or cervical spinal cord injury

Quadriplegia occurs when there is injury to spinal cord at cervical region. It is also called as cervical spinal cord injury. In such injury movements and sensations in all four limbs are effected. Bowel, bladder control and sexual functions are also effected.

Besides all the causes that have been told before one of the major cause of cervical spinal cord injury or quadriplegia is shallow water diving. When someone dives headlong in shallow water thinking that it is deep. His head collides with floor. All pressure from head transfers to neck and results in breaking of neck. Every year in summers alot of young men break their necks because of miscalculated shallow water diving. So alot of care must be taken while diving headlong. One mustn’t dive headlong unless he is sure about the depth of water.

Functional abilities in people with cervical spine injury

In cervical spine injury the functional ability depends on the level of injury.

  • In injury above C3 which is very fatal, one doesn’t posses any movement below neck and requires ventilator for breathing.
  •  C4 spine injury patient may breath at his own but with difficulty and requires help in all activities.
  • C5 cervical spine injury breathing improves and one can move his shoulder and elbow. With assistive devices one may feed himself.
  • In c6, cervical spinal cord injury like mine, one can extend wrist along with elbow flexion and shoulders movements. I can feed, drink dress,write. type, groom and transfer to bed and commode chair at my own but need assistance in transferring to car.
  • In c7 cervical spine injury one can flex and extend wrist and can extend elbow using triceps which makes transfer and other activities easier than c6.
  • In c8, hands functions also improve thus making daily activities more easier.


Paraplegia occurs when there is injury to spinal cord at chest, lumber and sacral area. It result in loss of movements and sensation in chest back and legs. Bowel bladder control and sexuality may also be affected.

Functional abilities in paraplegics

The functional abilities of paraplegics are much more than quadriplegics. As they have full movement of arms and hands so they are independent in ADL.In T6-T12 injury sitting balance improves and one is more suitable for athletic activities in wheelchair. In L1-L5 injury some muscles of legs also works and one may walk short distance with braces or assistive devices.

Read also: Introduction to spinal cord