What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system that is located inside the spinal column. It is an essential structure for receiving sensations from the body and for motor functions. An injury to the spinal cord cuts the communication between the brain and the body and causes total or partial paralysis of the limbs and trunk. The extent of paralysis depends on the location of the lesion in the spine and its severity. Injuries resulting in paraplegia are low, that is to say the paralysis of the lower limbs, while a higher lesion at the level of the cervical vertebrae (the neck), results in quadriplegia, which is complete or partial paralysis of all four limbs. As the spinal cord controls the operation of upper and lower limbs, victims of spinal cord injuries often have to use a wheelchair.
In addition to reducing motor functions, the lesion affects in most cases the functioning of organs located below the level of the lesion, including the bladder and intestines. It also deprives the spinal cord injured patient of his or her sensation in the regions of the body whose nerves are connected to the spinal cord below the injury site. Spinal cord injuries are often the result of accidents: car accidents, falls, diving accidents, or work accidents.