Common Symptoms to Help Detect Spinal Cord Injury

Ethel Gonzales

After a car accident or a sports injury, knowing how to recognize whether you or someone else has sustained a spinal cord injury is crucial. If you encounter someone and suspect this injury, one of the most important things to remember is that you should avoid moving the person if at all possible. Towels can be placed on both sides of the neck, and the person should be kept still until help arrives. In some cases, knowing how to spot a cord injury and what you should do can allow you or another accident victim to avoid some of the catastrophic consequences of spinal cord injuries.

The symptoms described in this section are ones you should look for immediately after an accident or injury has occurred. If you observe or are experiencing any of them, call 911 immediately. Some of the eight most common symptoms of a spinal cord injury that you may experience include:

  1. Pain or pressure in the head, back or neck area
  2. Weakness
  3. An inability to move any part of your body
  4. Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  5. A loss of control of bowel or bladder function
  6. Difficulty walking or maintaining your balance
  7. Trouble breathing
  8. Note: If your neck or back is severely twisted or in an odd position, this is also a sign that may point to injury

While some cord injuries are obvious-as in cases where the person becomes paralyzed below the neck or chest-others may result in less severe symptoms. Since there were no obvious signs of trauma, you may have even refrained from seeing a doctor. In these instances, you may not even know you have a spinal cord injury right away. However, there are symptoms to look for that may indicate a fall or car accident was more serious than you first thought. A common one is a loss of sensation in any part of the body. You may have trouble sensing hot and cold, or you may even lose your sense of touch entirely. Other signs to look for include pains or acute stinging feelings that don’t have an obvious cause, spasms, unusual increases in reflexes, and problems with breathing or coughing. Finally, losing control of bowel or bladder functions or experiencing changes in sexual function might mean you sustained this injury that you are still unaware of.

If any of these symptoms present themselves after an injury, it’s important that you get checked out to see whether you have a spinal cord injury. Better still, always see a doctor if you are involved in an accident or crash-it’s the best way to know whether you sustained internal injuries.

Seeking out expert medical attention should be your first priority if you suspect you may have sustained a spinal cord injury in a car crash or fall. Unfortunately, even with recent medical advances, these types of injuries often result in permanent paralysis or partial loss of function of one or more areas of the body.

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