Types and Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal Cord Injury Types

Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types of injury – complete spinal cord injury vs. incomplete:

  • A complete spinal cord injury causes permanent damage to the area of the spinal cord that is affected. Paraplegia or tetraplegia are results of complete spinal cord injuries.
  • An incomplete spinal cord injury refers to partial damage to the spinal cord. The ability to move and the amount of feeling depends on the area of the spine injured and the severity of the injury. Outcomes are based on a patient’s health and medical history.

Levels of Spinal Cord Injury

There are four sections of the spinal cord: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Each section of the spine protects different groups of nerves that control the body. The types and severity of spinal cord injuries can depend on the section of the spine that is injured. Learn about the sections of the spine, four levels of spinal cord injury and possible recovery outcomes.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries

Cervical spinal cord injuries affect the head and neck region above the shoulders. It is the most severe level of spinal cord injury. Learn more.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injuries

Thoracic spinal cord injuries affect the upper chest, mid-back and abdominal muscles. Arm and hand function is usually normal with this level of spinal cord injury. Learn more.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries

Lumbar spinal cord injuries affect the hips and legs. Individuals may need a wheelchair or walk with braces with this level of spinal cord injury. Learn more.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injuries

Sacral spinal cord injuries affect the hips, back of the thighs, buttocks and pelvic organs. Individuals are most likely able to walk with this level of spinal cord injury. Learn more.


More Information About Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal Cord Injury 101

Our video series uses simple language and images of real people who have sustained a spinal cord injury, as well as insight from medical experts and advocates.

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Injury Prevention Program

Shepherd Center’s Injury Prevention Program spreads the word about risky behavior with the goal to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries.

Learn More

MyShepherdConnection.org

Visit MyShepherdConnection.org for a wealth of spinal cord injury-related educational materials for patients, families and caregivers.

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