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Types of Spinal Cord Injuries and Treatments

West Coast Trial Lawyers Practice Spinal Cord Injury Law

A spinal cord has 4 sections that an individual could potentially damage when they suffer a spinal cord injury. These 4 sections are:

  • Cervical spinal cord. This is located on the top portion of the spinal cord. It consists of seven vertebrae in the neck (C1 to C7). Since the cervical spinal cord is close to the brain, it can result in a severe injury. This will create an “absent” feeling below the shoulders or neck. If an individual gets a cervical spinal cord injury, then they will be at risk of having permanent or partial loss of sensory function. This injury may also be fatal. Once the swelling from the aftermath of the injury decreases and the necessary procedures are done, the recovery process will commence. The recovery process of a cervical spinal cord injury consists of:
    • Stabilizing the injured section of the spinal cord.
    • Consuming steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the swelling. A common drug that individuals typically take is methylprednisolone. 
    • Rehabilitation to help the individual re-learn how to move their body.
    • 24/7 care for the rest of their lives. This primarily happens for individuals who suffered a severe spinal cord injury that has no chance of healing from recovery. 
  • Lumbar spinal cord. This is located in the second lowest section of the spinal cord. It consists of five vertebrae (L1 to L5) under the thoracic portion. This spinal cord is capable of carrying the most weight out of all the other sections, thus having the largest vertebrae. If an individual suffers an injury in the lumbar spinal cord, they will experience some loss of function around the hips and legs. Additionally, the individual could face loss of control with their bowel or bladder movements. There is no impact done to the upper body. The recovery process for a lumbar spinal cord injury depends on which nerves were affected and the level of severity of the injury. Even though all spinal cord injuries are considered severe, the lumbar spinal cord rarely has situations where the damage is fatal. Individuals who are seeking help for their recovery process generally go to a rehabilitation center to regain their mobility with the help of therapists and mobility-assisting equipment or technology.
  • Thoracic spinal cord. This is located in both the upper and middle sections of the spinal cord. It consists of twelve vertebrae (T-1 to T-12). Each of these numbers correlates with the nerves found in that section of the spinal cord.


    • T-1 to T-5 nerves. This will impact the muscles, mid-back, abdominal muscles, and upper chest. These nerves maintain the rib cage, diaphragm, lungs, and muscles to help the individual breathe. 
    • T-6 to T-12 nerves. This will affect the back and abdominal muscles. The nerves in this section help the individual with their balance and posture. They may also help you cough to get foreign matter out of your airway.

If an individual suffers from a thoracic spinal cord injury, they will potentially get diagnosed with paraplegia. However, their arms and hand movement will not be impacted. Another problem that could arise is having a lack of control over bowel or bladder movement. For the individual to recover from this injury they must get it checked out by a medical expert. They will prescribe appropriate instructions that need to be followed to make the recovery process easier on the individual. Once the individual has already met with the doctor, they may begin their self-care treatment at home. This only applies for those who did not suffer extreme damage to their thoracic spinal cord. 

  • Move slowly and be cautious of your surroundings.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.
  • Apply ice or heat to the injured area. The medical expert may recommend for you to use ice to decrease the pain and swelling. Heat will help decrease muscle spasms. The method of doing this treatment varies based on what your doctor thinks would be best for you to do. 
  • Use a back brace to keep the injured area stabilized.
  • Continue attending physical therapy sessions to regain your strength. 

If you have severe injuries, you will need to go to the hospital to get treatment from doctors and nurses. 

  • Sacral spinal cord. This is located in the lowest section of the spinal cord. It is below the lumbar section and above the tailbone. It consists of five bones that are combined together to form triangle-shaped nerves. Each nerve affects a different area of the body. 
    • S1 nerves. Impacts the hip and groin area.
    • S2 nerves. Impacts the back area of the thighs.
    • S3 nerves. Impacts the buttock area.
    • S4 nerves. Impacts the perineal area. 

It is rare for an individual to have a sacral spinal cord injury. It usually happens hen the individual has a serious fall or trauma that directly affects the sacral. If an individual does damage their sacral, they may experience having loss of function in the hips and legs. They might not be able to have control of their bowel or bladder functions. However, the individual may still have the ability to walk. The recovery process for a sacral spinal injury cord varies depending on the level of severity for the damage done. Regardless of the outcome, it is still important to see a doctor to make sure you are appropriately taking care of your sacral. Home remedies for a sacral spinal cord injury include:

Caring for Yourself After a Spinal Cord Injury

  • Leave a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes. Do this for every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days. Make sure that you put the ice or cold pack in a washcloth before placing it on your skin. 
  • Do not sit on a hard surface. Try to place the injured area on a soft surface to prevent pressure to increase on the tailbone area.
  • Prevent yourself from experiencing constipation. This will increase the pain. 
  • Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans in your diet to have high fiber. You should also drink a lot of water.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries. 

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss  of Enjoyment of Life
  • Other Non-Economic Damanges

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact are only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations For Damages In California

For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non economic losses is $250,000.

Contact Us

If you suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligent acts committed by another individual, West Coast Trial Lawyers has spinal cord injury attorneys that have extensive experience with handling personal injury cases. We will help you get financial and emotional compensation for the damages caused by the individual at-fault. This includes your medical expenses, emotional distress, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation with the attorneys at our firm. No fees are paid until your case is settled. Reach out to our legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected]


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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