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Articles Tagged with spinal cord injury

Recovery from a spinal cordThere are approximately 400,000 people throughout the United States living with the effects of spinal cord injury (SCI) at any given time. Even though statistics show that spinal cord injuries are more prevalent amongst males, anyone who is involved in an accident could experience a spinal cord injury at any given time.

Two different types of SCI

When talking about spinal cord injuries, there are two different types. These include the complete spinal cord injury (meaning the patient loses complete lack of function any lower than their injury) and the incomplete spinal cord injury (there is some feeling and sensation below the injury). The degree and level of functioning is dependent upon the patient and in which way and how severely the spinal cord was damaged.

Complete spinal cord injuries

These result in complete tetraplegia or complete paraplegia. There are differences between the two different types:

  • Complete paraplegia – This means that the patient experiences permanent loss of nerve and motor function. There is no movement or sensation in the sexual region, bladder, bowel, or legs. The patient is able to use his or her hands and arms as before the accident. Some have partial trunk movement, meaning they are able to walk short distances or stand up if they use assistive equipment. For most patients, this means using a self-propelled wheelchair for the remainder of their life.
  • Complete tetraplegia – This means that the patient loses arm and hand movement in addition to the aforementioned problems. Some patients need ventilator systems to be able to breathe.

Incomplete spinal cord injuries

These types of injury are far more common than complete injuries. The difference is that these patients have some degree of movement or sensation below the injury. While patients and their family members often want an idea of how severe the injury is likely to be, it is impossible to determine until spinal shock has subsided. This can take approximately six or eight weeks after the injury. This may result in some movement but little or no feeling or some feeling but little or no movement.

Finding compensation for your spinal cord injury

The leading cause of spinal cord injuries varies by age. For people who are under the age of 65, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause. For those over 65, we can attribute most spinal cord injuries to falls. Other causes include:

  • Sports injuries (especially without proper protection or landing on one’s head)
  • Extreme twisting of the trunk
  • Bullet or stab wounds
  • Electric shock
  • Diving accidents
  • Workplace accidents

If you or someone close to you suffers a spinal cord injury, it can be a life-altering occurrence. Aside from possible recovery (if possible), it is important that you get through the trauma and have any possible medical bills and recovery bills paid for. Do not lose anything because of insurance companies, lost wages, or other complications. You need an experienced personal injury lawyer who can go over the specifics of the spinal cord injury and ensure that everything is done to properly compensate you.

As a Chicago personal injury lawyer, I everyday seems to remind me that back and neck injuries are indeed serious injuries that can result in permanent disability, paralysis, or even death.  Back and injuries can involve the bone, muscle, or soft tissue.  Common injuries include strains and sprains, fractured vertebrae, sciatica, and herniated disks.

The most common location for back injuries and back pain is the lower back because the lower back supports your body weight.  80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.  Common causes of back and neck injuries include trauma (falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports, birth injury), arthritis, cancer, degenerative conditions, and surgical injury.

Back Pain

There are two types of back pain: acute and chronic.  Acute back pain lasts a short time, between a few days to a few weeks.  It is usually caused by an injury to the muscles or ligaments in the back.  Chronic back pain is caused by repetitive motion, poor posture, arthritis, herniated disk, or conditions affecting the spine.  Risk factors for chronic back pain include: being over 30 years old, being overweight, pregnancy, lack of exercise, smoking, or heavy lifting.  Neck pain usually involves similar symptoms and treatments as back pain.

Symptoms include a burning, tingling, or aching sensation or sharp pain.  If you have severe or lasting back pain, you should see a medical professional.  The doctor will ask questions to try to determine the cause.  In some cases, the doctor might use an MRI scan to diagnose back or spine abnormalities.  However, some people who do not have back pain might have disk bulges or protrusions.

Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor may prescribe painkillers, physical therapy, exercise, or icing the area.  The number of treatments available for back pain has grown over the years, but many involve medical controversy.  Surgical treatment is expensive and has mixed results.  In America, back pain is the second most common reason people seek medical care, and the cost of medical care is more than $8 billion annually.  Therefore, many doctors and back specialists are using noninvasive, traditional approaches including exercise, dealing with stress, and other holistic approaches.  However, if your back pain is severe and treatment has not worked, you can enroll in clinical studies.

For your own treatment, you should stop any physical activity for a few days, apply ice then heat, and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce swelling and avoid aggravating the injury.  Although it may sound counterintuitive, prolonged bed rest can actually make your injury worse.  After the first few days, slowly start normal activity.  For acute back pain, most people improve within four to six weeks.


Sciatica is when an injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve causes pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg.  It is not actually a medical condition but rather a symptom of a medical problem.  The sciatic nerve is in the lower spine and travels down the back of the legs.  It provides sensation to the legs and controls the back of the knee and lower leg.  Sciatica is commonly caused by a slipped disk, pelvic injury or fracture, tumor, or a pain disorder.

The pain associated with sciatica varies with each individual from mild pain or discomfort to severe pain that makes the person unable to move.  Usually, the pain is on one side of the body.  In order to diagnose sciatica, a doctor will ask questions about how the pain started.  With sciatica, the pain builds slowly and may get worse after standing or sitting, at night, from sneezing or couching, when walking, or when bending backwards.  The doctor will also test your reflexes.

Treatment for sciatica is actually treatment of the underlying medical condition.  However, you can treat the symptoms.  This includes applying heat or ice, taking pain relievers, and physical therapy.  Just as with back pain, bed rest is not recommended.  Instead, you should reduce physical activity for the first few days then ease back into your normal activities.

Herniated Discs Due to Trauma & Accidents

The spine is composed of 26 vertebrae separated and cushioned by soft disks.  A herniated disk (also known as a slipped disk) is where a disk slips out of place or ruptures, which can put pressure on a nerve causing pain, numbness, or weakness.  The lower back is the most common location for a herniated disk (second most common are the neck/cervical disks, and thoracic disks are rarely involved).

Risk factors for slipped disks include being male, being middle-aged or older, and having congenital conditions affecting the lumbar spinal canal.

Symptoms usually occur on one side of the body and include: tingling/burning/aching pain; numbness; sharp pain in leg, hip, calf, sole of foot (indicates of slipped disk in lower back); and pain moving neck, pain in shoulder, arm, fingers (indicates slipped disk in neck).  Pain usually builds gradually and can get worse after sitting, at night, when sneezing or coughing, or when bending or walking.  These symptoms often improve after several weeks or months.

In order to diagnose a herniated disk, you doctor will perform a physical exam to check for numbness, reflexes, and strength.  They might also have you walk and bend certain limbs to determine which movements cause increased pain or numbness.  Tests such as EMG, MRI, CT, x-ray, and nerve conduction can be used to determine the location of the problem and rule out other causes.  Treatment is similar to that for back pain and injury – a few days of rest, medication for pain, and physical therapy.

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury involves damage to the spinal cord or nerves and can cause changes in sensation and body functions.  The severity of a spinal cord injury depends on the location and severity of the injury.  The spinal cord is composed of nerve cells surrounded by the vertebrae.  It is responsible for relaying messages between your body and your brain.

Spinal cord injuries are categorized as either traumatic or nontraumatic.  Some common causes of traumatic spinal cord injury include penetrating injuries (bullet or stab wound), traumatic injury (car accident), landing on head from a fall or when playing sports, falling, diving accident, or extreme twisting of the middle of the body.  Alcohol is involved in many spinal cord injuries.  Common causes of nontraumatic spinal cord injury include cancer, arthritis, inflammation, infection, or disk degeneration.  Risk factors associated with spinal cord injury include being between 16 and 30 years old, being male, engaging in risky behavior, or having a bone or joint disorder.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of a spinal cord injury so you do not further aggravate the injury.  Common symptoms include: numbness or tingling in an extremity, paralysis, weakness, head position is unusual, loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of consciousness, stiff neck, headache, and shock.

If you suspect that someone has suffered a spinal injury, you should not move them unless necessary (ex. for safety reasons).  You should immediately call 911 and stay with the person to make sure they do not try to move.  It important that you call for help because your neck and back should be splinted to avoid movement and further injury.  If the trauma involves a penetrating injury, you should leave the object in place and allow medical personnel to treat you.

Doctors will perform tests in order to diagnose a spinal cord injury.  These tests include x-rays (show spine problems, tumors, fractures, or degeneration), CT scans (better shows abnormalities), MRI (show herniated disks, masses, or blood clots).  Doctors will also perform a physical exam to test sensory function and movement.  Lastly, doctors will perform a neurological exam to test the extent of your injury.  Although there is no way to reverse the damage caused by a spinal injury, doctors can treat secondary problems such as bowel and bladder issues, blood clots, pressure sores, deconditioning, and infection.

Treatment usually includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and recreational therapy to learn ways to adapt and stay independent.  Medications can also be used to treat some of the secondary problems such as muscle contraction and bladder/bowel control.  Researchers are working on ways to reverse spinal cord damage, mostly focused on nerve cell regeneration.

For serious spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis, one of the most important aspects of recovery is coping and support.  It is important to give yourself time to mourn and learn to adapt to your new life.  But, it is important to focus on your options for maintaining an independent life and educate yourself on treatment options.

Litigation stemming from back injuries sustained due to the fault of others

If you suffered a back injury because of a car accident, surgical injury, or other cause, you may be entitled to compensation from the person who caused the injury or accident.  Depending on the extent of your injury, you may be entitled to economic (medical bills, lost wages) and noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, emotional distress).

If you suffered a back or neck injury, you should be prepared for what your case may involve.  As the plaintiff, it is your burden to establish liability, injury, and damages.  Successful litigation requires multiple experts: an expert to testify about the cause of the accident and how the accident happened; doctors and neurologists to testify about the cause and extent of the injury, past and future medical treatment, and past and future pain and suffering; physical therapists and vocational rehabilitation experts to testify about rehabilitation, home assistance, and future treatment.  The more serious the injury, the more experts that will be needed to present your side of the case.

Back and neck injuries can be very serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and changes in the way you live your life.  Depending on the type of injury, learning new ways to adapt and go about regular activities is one of the most important aspects of recovery.  If you were injured because of someone’s actions or negligence, compensation can help you pursue rehabilitative and therapeutic programs that are integral to recovery and independent living.

Chicago Back & Neck Injury Lawyers

The compensation that you receive for an injury to your back or neck can vary drastically and is largely dependent upon the extent of your injury and the type of care that you receive. Chicago personal injury attorneys, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, have help many people with different types of cervical, thoracic and lumbar injuries get the maximum compensation for the their injuries.  We offer free legal consultations and never charge a fee without a recovery for you. Come see why many of our clients continue to refer their friends and family.

Paralysis means the loss of muscle function in a part of the body.  If the paralysis is caused by a spinal cord injury (SCI), it is further classified as a complete or an incomplete injury.

A complete injury is where the spinal cord cannot convey any messages to the body below the injury, resulting in a complete loss of sensory and motor function.  An incomplete injury is where the spinal cord can still convey some messages to and from the body below the injury.

Spinal cord injuries are also classified by the level of the injury (also known as a lesion), which refers to the spinal cord segment where the injury occurred.  In the United States, about 1,275,000 people have suffered spinal cord injuries (men account for 61% of all SCIs).  And about 5,596,000 people in the United States have suffered some form of paralysis.

Causes of Paralysis: (chart)

Types of paralysis/spinal cord injury (depends on which areas of the body are affected):

  • Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) – spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra (cervical spinal cord injury C1-C8) – paralysis of all four limbs, abdominal and chest muscles also affected, sometimes causes loss of physical sensation, bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction, respiratory issues.

  • Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury (T1-T12) – paralysis or weakness in legs (Paraplegia), person usually can move arms and hands, can cause loss of physical sensation, bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction.

  • Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury (L1-L5) – paralysis or weakness of legs, the shoulders/arms/hands are unaffected, can cause loss of physical sensation, bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction.

  • Sacral Spinal Cord Injury (S1-S5) – can cause loss of bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction, weakness or paralysis of hips and legs.

  • Cauda Equina Syndrome – nerves at the end of spinal cord are compressed

Secondary conditions commonly associated with paralysis:

  • blood clots – can be prevented with support hose, compression devices, blood thinners, filters

  • pneumonia – can be caused by build up of secretions in lungs

  • bladder management – catheters are often used

  • bladder care – bladder/urinary tract infections are common but can be prevented with a bladder management routine, proper hydration, and sterilized equipment

  • bowel management

  • sexual health

  • automonic dysreflexia

  • respiratory health

  • skin care/pressure sores (See “Pressure Sores Injury”)

  • hypertension (low blood pressure)

  • spasticity – increased muscle stiffness, jerks, involuntary spasms

  • pain

  • depression

Prognosis for paralyzed patients

Currently, there is no cure for spinal cord injuries, but there is ongoing research looking for surgical and pharmaceutical therapies.  Still, there is always a chance of recovery after a spinal cord injury(SCI); however, the chance of recovery is better for people with incomplete SCI.  Generally, the faster your muscles start moving again after injury, the better chance you have of additional recovery.  The longer the time that elapses after your injury without any improvement, the lower the odds are of recovery.

Rehabilitation options for paralysis patients

Paralysis can cause dramatic life changes and it is important that each aspect of the patient’s recovery is provided for through medical treatment and rehabilitative options.  This often includes counseling for the entire family because it requires everyone to adapt and become educated in order for the patient to achieve maximum independence and support.  The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation provides a list of Illinois Disability Resources.  It also provides information on how to choose the right rehabilitation center.

A good rehab center has experience with your specific diagnosis/condition, is accredited, has a wide variety of professionals to support your recovery including: psychiatrists, rehab nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, recreational therapists, vocational therapists, and counselors.  In addition, specialized medical equipment is also required including: wheelchairs, specialized beds, and cushion and positioning gear.

Research and clinical trials related to spinal cord injuries and paralysis

While there is no cure, research is being done and there are clinical trials available.  Before enlisting in a clinical trial, it is  important that you educate yourself to ensure that the trial is well run, safe, and appropriate for your condition/injury.  The International Campaign for Cures of Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis (ICCP) has a guide on experimental treatments for SCIs.  It covers the types of clinical trials available, risks, clinical trial phases, ethics, participation, and functional benefits.

The guide emphasizes that a good trial has already undergone extensive investigation in animals and has shown a strong and repeatable outcome and will be divided into placebo and treatment groups.  The website,, is a registry and results database of federally supported and privately supported clinical trials in the United States and worldwide.

Legal options for people paralyzed in an accident

If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury or paralysis due to a motor vehicle accident, personal injury, someone’s negligence, medical malpractice, or criminal actions, you may be entitled to compensation.  These types of injuries can be very complicated and require that you find an attorney who is qualified to get you the compensation you deserve.  We encourage you to contact us to discuss your legal options.

These types of cases require medical experts to testify about the cause of the injury, the medical care necessary, and the long-term care needs of the individual.  If you were paralyzed due to a surgical or medical procedure, you will need doctors to testify about how your physician deviated from the appropriate standard of care and how their actions caused your injury.  A lawsuit requires you, as the plaintiff, to prove liability:

  1. duty of care
  2. breach of that duty
  3. the breach of duty caused the injury,
  4. you suffered damages as a result.

Damages may include physical and mental pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of consortium, past/current/future medical care, and long-term medical and therapy services.

Spinal cord injuries and paralysis affect both the individual and the entire family.  Providing care for a paralyzed individual has significant emotional, physical, and monetary affects.  While there is no way to undo the damage done, a lawsuit may help you hold those responsible accountable for their actions, compensate you for your pain and suffering, and help you pay for medical services.

The cost of living with SCI can be very high, especially for more severe injury because of the extent of medical treatment required. Many SCI require long-term care, which can quickly add up.  The average expense for the first year of Paraplegia is $480,431 with subsequent yearly costs totaling &63,643.  Low Tetraplegia injuries (C5-C8) cost $712,308 in the first year, and $105,013 for each subsequent year.  High Tetraplegia injuries (C1-C4) are a more severe injury and cost an average $985,774 for just the first year, then an average of $171,183 each subsequent year.

Paralysis injury lawyers

If you or a family member was involved in a serious accident resulting in paralysis, our Chicago personal injury lawyers may be able to help you recover the money required for medical care and recreation.  We have been successful in recovering significant damages for clients with significant disabilities. Our law office has working relationships with some of the most respected life care planners and economists to assist in presenting your case to an insurance company or jury.