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The difference between complete and incomplete spinal injuries

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2023 | Injuries |

The human spinal cord is a delicate structure tasked with transmitting signals between the brain and the body. When an injury occurs to this crucial pathway, the effects can vary greatly depending on the severity and location of the damage.

One way to classify spinal injuries is by categorizing them as either complete or incomplete. Knowing the difference between these types can help you understand the extent of the damage and its implications.

Complete spinal injuries

Complete spinal injuries refer to cases where the damage to the spinal cord is so severe that it completely disrupts the nerve pathways. This results in a total loss of sensory and motor functions below the level of injury. For example, in a complete spinal injury affecting the lower back, you might experience paralysis in the legs, also known as paraplegia.

Incomplete spinal injuries

On the other hand, an incomplete spinal injury occurs when the spinal cord is only partially damaged. In these cases, some motor or sensory function remains below the level of injury. The degree of function depends on the extent and location of the damage. For instance, one side of the body might be more affected than the other, or you may have more motor control than sensory perception, or vice versa.

The consequences of incomplete injuries can vary greatly from one person to another, making their outcomes less predictable compared to complete injuries.

Long-term implications

While complete injuries typically result in total loss of function, incomplete injuries come with their own challenges, including pain, mobility issues and the potential for gradual improvement or worsening over time.

Knowing the type of spinal injury is a key step toward understanding the potential implications and planning for future needs. Whether the injury is complete or incomplete, medical professionals and physical therapists can provide you with the necessary tools and techniques to cope with your new reality.

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