Most people think of spinal cord injuries as obvious and immediate. In the vast majority of cases, that is accurate. When someone suffers a complete spinal cord injury that severs the spinal cord, they will immediately lose sensation and function below the site of the injury.
Someone who suffers a spinal cord injury in a fall or car crash may not be able to get themselves up off the ground or out of the vehicle because of how the injury affects their motor function. However, not everyone who suffers a spinal cord injury in a car crash will sever their spinal cord.
People without medical training and equipment could potentially overlook incomplete spinal cord injuries after a car crash.
What is an incomplete spinal cord injury?
Any time someone hurts their spinal cord but the injury does not sever the spinal cord, their injury is an incomplete injury. Such injuries may go from moderately bad to severe in a moment if something completes the injury, which is why first responders often stabilize the head, neck and back of those who may have suffered a spinal cord injury after a crash. Limiting how much they move could prevent worse injury to their spine.
Unfortunately, some people with incomplete spinal cord injuries are still able to walk and may not notice any motor function symptoms or pain at first. They might try to go home after the crash instead of seeking medical evaluation, but they may end up noticing numbness, pain, weakness or other worrying signs of an injury over the next few days. These people may unwittingly hurt their chances of a full recovery by delaying treatment.
Any spinal cord injury requires trauma care
Some people recover function and sensation after suffering an incomplete spinal cord injury, while others simply need medical support to avoid worsening the injury while their body heals. In both scenarios, extensive trauma care, physical therapy and even surgery may be necessary.
A person with a spinal cord injury may also require assistive technology for mobility. Getting adequate medical support and financial compensation after a severe injury can be difficult for someone already coping with the medical consequences of their injury. Having help with the process of filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit will help you focus on recovering from a spinal cord injury rather than navigating the legal process after you get hurt.