Serious accidents, like car crashes or slip and falls, can cause life-altering injuries, including injuries to your spinal cord. However, you may not recognize when you have sustained a spinal cord injury if you are not already familiar with the signs, and if a spinal cord injury goes untreated, it could become even more severe.
The spinal cord is a group of nerves that help the brain and the body communicate. A spinal cord injury can be a bruise, partial tear or complete tear within the spinal cord and can range in severity.
In general, people associate spinal cord injuries with paralysis. This perception is accurate because loss of movement is one symptom that can present with spinal cord injuries, depending on where the injury is along someone’s spine and how severe the injury is. However, this perception also perpetuates an incomplete understanding of the variety of symptoms that can come with a spinal cord injury.
Some less expected signs of a spinal cord injury include spasms, intense stinging or changes in sexual function. An altered sense of sensation, such as the ability to feel heat, cold or touch, is another unexpected sign.
Emergency signs of a spinal cord injury, include:
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back
- Weakness, incoordination or loss of movement of any body part
- Tingling or loss of sensation in fingers or toes
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Problems with balance or walking
- Difficulty breathing
In general, you should be checked out by a doctor after any car crash, slip and fall or other serious accident. This will help ensure any injuries you sustained will be caught and treated right away. However, some symptoms, like numbness or paralysis, might take time to appear, showing up as bleeding or swelling occurs. If you think you have developed symptoms of a spinal cord injury after being involved in an accident, you should seek immediate medical help.