Spinal Levels & Corresponding Injury Symptoms

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

spinal cord injury symptoms

Your spine can be broken down into different levels, and injuries to the nerves in these sections can cause a range of problems. Today, we’re going to look at which symptoms and problems can occur when nerve injuries occur in one of the four main spinal areas, the cervical portion, the thoracic portion, the lumbar nerves and the sacral region.

High-Cervical Nerves

The high-cervical section of your spine is comprised of the top four vertebrae in your spine, C1-C4. An injury to the spinal cord in this area is often the most severe type of injury. Damage to the spinal cord in this location can lead to paralysis in your arms, hands, trunk and legs, and it may affect a person’s ability to speak. Patients may also have difficulty breathing on their own if they suffer a high-cervical spinal cord injury.

Low-Cervical Nerves

The lower cervical vertebrae are located just under the high cervical vertebrae in the upper portion of your spine, sections C5-C8. The nerves in this area control your arms and hands, and severe damage to this area may lead to partial or full paralysis in your hands, arms and legs. Damage to the nerves in the C5 and C6 section is more severe than in the C7 and C8 vertebrae. Bladder functions may also be inhibited when nerve damage occurs in the lower cervical section.

Thoracic Nerves

The thoracic vertebrae are located beneath the lower cervical vertebrae in the middle portion of your spine. The nerves in this area control arm and hand function, as well as movement in your legs. Injuries to the T1-T5 vertebrae are typically less severe than injuries to the T6-T12 vertebrae. The former are typically categorized back pain and minor disability, but standing, walking with braces and the use of a manual wheelchair are usually possible, while the latter may result in paraplegia, loss of bladder control and some functional loss in the hips and legs.

Lumbar Nerves

The lumbar section of your spine is located under the thoracic section at the bottom of your spine. Injuries to the nerves in this area can lead to some loss of function in a person’s legs, and walking may be difficult without braces. Bladder control may also be affected.

Sacral Nerves

The sacral part of your spine is located at the bottom-most point of your spine, underneath the lumbar vertebrae. Pain in the hip and legs generally accompanies a sacral nerve injury, but most patients retain the ability to walk. As with all spinal injuries, a person may lose voluntary control of their bladder if they suffer a sacral nerve injury.

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