Levels and Types of Spinal Cord Injury

Types of Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types of injury – complete and 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, types of spinal cord injuries and possible recovery outcomes.


The head and neck region above the shoulders are affected by cervical spinal cord injuries. Learn more.


The upper chest, mid-back and abdominal muscles are affected by injuries to the thoracic spinal cord. Learn more.


The hips and legs are affected by lumbar spinal cord injuries. Learn more.


The hips, back of the thighs, buttocks and pelvic organs are affected by injuries to the sacral spinal cord. 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 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.

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

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Learn More from Shepherd Center

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Please contact us at 404-352-2020 if you have additional questions about spinal cord injury or spinal cord injury rehabilitation.