The spinal cord is a part of the central nervous system that is located inside the spinal column. It is an essential structure that receives signals from the body and sends signals 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 located lower in the spine, causing 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 affecting motor functions, the lesion affects in most cases the functioning of organs located below the level of the lesion, including the bladder and intestines. The affected person may also have a loss of sensation in the same region. Spinal cord injuries are often the result of accidents : car accidents, falls, diving accidents, or work accidents.