Signs of a spinal cord injury may appear immediately or gradually

Car crashes can cause many different kinds of injuries. However, one of the most severe types of injury crashes can cause are spinal cord injuries (SCIs). For people younger than 65 years old, car crashes are the leading cause of SCIs, and every year, roughly 11,000 people receive SCIs in the United States, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

If you are involved in a car crash, you should always schedule a medical examination as soon as possible to help identify any possible injury right away. However, you should also be aware of the signs that could indicate you have a SCI because this type of injury often requires special treatment.

What is a SCI?

A SCI occurs when force, such as a traumatic blow, causes damage to the spinal cord, vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column. The spinal cord helps carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body, so damage to the spinal cord can affect the body’s ability to function below the injury site.

What are some signs that may indicate a SCI?

SCIs do not always show immediate symptoms. Sometimes symptoms appear over time as bleeding or swelling occurs around the spinal cord. However, if an SCI is not recognized right away, the injury could become more severe, and there is no way to reverse spinal cord damage once it occurs. This is why it is so important to get examined by a doctor after any car crash.

Symptoms of a SCI can include any of the following:

  • An oddly positioned neck or back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any body part
  • Loss of sensation or altered sensation
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Spasms
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Back pain
  • Pressure in your neck, head or back

What should I do if I think I have a SCI after a crash?

If you think you could have a SCI after being involved in a crash, you should seek emergency medical help. If you are at the scene of the crash, you should try to remain still until emergency responders arrive. Emergency responders may need to stabilize your spine with a rigid neck collar and a carrying board.

Once you arrive at the emergency room, you may undergo several tests to help provide doctors with more information about your injury. These tests may include x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Additional testing may be necessary days later, as your swelling goes down.

Treatments for SCIs may include medications, immobilization or surgery to prevent further damage and prevent possible complications. You may also work with various rehabilitation specialists, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, a psychologist, a recreation therapist and others.

SCIs can be life-altering. If you received a SCI because of someone else’s negligence, it may be appropriate to seek legal action. You may be able to receive compensation for your medical bills and other costs associated with the injury.

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