Living with Spinal Cord Injury

On a daily basis, people with spinal cord injury may face many hurdles that most of us would find hard to imagine. Everyday tasks can take hours to complete. People may be ready to go back to work, but a simple fear of going to the bathroom may make it impossible.

Damage to a spinal cord can happen in a second; the consequences last a lifetime. People who sustain damage to their spinal cord, either through a traumatic injury, or a disease process, can suffer lifelong paralysis and are at increased risk of many serious health complications.

Spinal cord injury research can dramatically improve well-being and quality of life for every person living with paralysis. Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research promotes investigations that will lead to life-changing discoveries, greater understanding of the causes of complications and the development of new technologies to assist people with spinal cord injury.


Levels of Injury

Vertebrae are grouped into sections: the higher the level of injury to the spinal cord, the more dysfunction can occur.

  • High Cervical Nerves (C1-C4)
    • Damage to this part of the spinal cord is the most severe. Paralysis will occur to the arms, trunk and legs (known as Tetraplegia) and breathing, bladder and bowel function will be impaired.
  • Low-Cervical Nerves (C5-C8)
    • Nerve damage here will affect the corresponding nerves that control arms and hands. A person with this level of injury may be able to breathe on their own and speak normally.
  • Thoracic Nerves (T1 – T12)
    • This is damage to nerves corresponding to muscles in the chest, mid back and abdomen and causes paralysis to the legs (known as Paraplegia).
  • Lumber Nerves (L1 – L5)
    • Injuries here result in some loss of function in the hips and legs, and also affect bowel and bladder function. The injured person may need a wheelchair or may walk with braces.
  • Sacral Nerves (S1 – S5)
    • Injury here results in some loss of function in the hips and legs, and will require special equipment to manage bladder and bowel function, although the injured person will most likely be able to walk.
" My car accident in 2008 left me paralysed from the waist down as my T10 - T12 vertebrae were crushed. Sport was a huge part of my rehabilitation and I don't let my wheelchair stop me achieving my goals. "

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