Many different types of incidents can cause spinal cord injuries. Sometimes this type of severe injury can be caused by a car crash. Other times it can be caused by an athletic accident, a gunshot wound or another trauma.

Spinal cord injuries can become more severe if they are not recognized and treated right away, so it is important to receive a medical examination as soon as possible after experiencing trauma to the head, neck or back. Some signs of spinal cord damage may be noticeable immediately following a trauma. However, sometimes the signs appear more gradually as swelling or bleeding occurs.

Signs not to ignore

After experiencing trauma, try to remain calm and see if you notice any signs of spinal cord damage. Signs that may indicate spinal cord damage, include:

  • Extreme back pain
  • Pressure in your neck, head or back
  • Any weakness, incoordination or paralysis in your body
  • Tingling or loss of sensation in extremities
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Trouble balancing
  • Difficulty breathing

If you think you may have a spinal cord injury, you should seek emergency medical help right away. If possible, you should avoid moving or being moved, except by trained medical professionals. Movement can make a spinal cord injury more severe. If you experienced trauma to your head, neck or back, it may be prudent to receive an examination, even if your do not notice immediate signs of damage.

What to expect for treatment

Immediate medical care may focus on making sure you can continue to breathe and you do not go into shock. Then, emergency room doctors may order X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help determine if you have a spinal cord injury and, if so, how severe the injury is. Additional tests may be performed several days later, after swelling goes down.

Although there is no way to reverse spinal cord damage, there are treatments available to prevent it becoming more severe and minimize potential side effects. Treatment can include immobilization, surgery and medications.

A spinal cord injury can be life-altering. However, there are also several technologies that can help you maintain independence and continue involvement in your favorite activities. Just a few of those technologies include computer adaptations, electrical stimulation devices and robotic gait training.

Each person’s situation is different. However, if you received a serious injury because of someone else’s negligent behavior, it may be appropriate to take legal action. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with your injury.