Spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. The injury usually occurs as a result of a trauma such as a fall or car accident, medical condition such as spina bifida, stroke or Friedreich’s Ataxia, or as a result of other back and spine conditions.
- Quadriplegia (also known as tetraplegia) is loss of function below the neck.
- Paraplegia is loss of function below the chest.
The spinal cord does not have to be severed in order for a loss of functioning to occur. In fact, in most people with spinal cord injury, the spinal cord is intact, but the damage due to compression or bruising to it results in loss of functioning. Spinal cord injury is very different from back injuries such as ruptured disks, spinal stenosis or pinched nerves.
A person can “break their back or neck” yet not sustain a spinal cord injury if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord is not affected. In these situations, the individual may not experience paralysis if bone damage is treated correctly.