What is paraplegia?

As we discussed in our April 22 blog post, spinal cord injuries can cause lifelong disability. After suffering a spinal injury in a car accident or on the job, the location and extent of the injury largely determines what parts of your body will be paralyzed.

Injuries that occur high enough on the spinal cord, the victim may develop quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, which causes paralysis of the limbs, torso, pelvic organs and hands. Paraplegia is the result of damage lower down on the spinal cord. It typically does not affect the arms or torso.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, paraplegia can be categorized as “complete” or “incomplete.” If the spinal cord is completely damaged, the injured person may experience total loss of sensation and ability to move in the lower part of their body. An incomplete injury, on the other hand, can allow the victim to retain partial use of affected body parts. He or she may have sensation but no motor function, or vice versa.

Thus, paraplegia can cause a range of disabling effects. As News-medical.net explains, some paraplegic people have some ability to walk, though it is perhaps more common for paraplegics to rely on wheelchairs or similar equipment. Other common symptoms are urinary or fecal incontinence and impotence.

After a serious accident, a person suspected of having a back or neck injury should not be moved, and should try to remain still until emergency responders arrive. Moving or being moved could make a potential spinal injury worse.