A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when the spinal cord is damaged, typically as a result of trauma, disease or degeneration. While there are varying degrees of severity, SCIs can be catastrophic, permanent, life-changing injuries. If you or a loved one is suffering from a spinal cord injury that was caused by someone else’s carelessness, you will need a spinal cord injury lawyer to advocate on your behalf. Spinal cord injury attorneys at Sullivan Pain Block McGrath & Cannavo PC are highly experienced and have amazing track records of recovering damages for our clients suffering from SCIs.
Spinal cord injury lawyers at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo understand that SCIs are devastating injuries and can change the course of one’s life. We can help you obtain compensation for both the financial costs of the injury and the consequences that injury has had on your life. In the past, our spinal cord injury attorneys have successfully obtained compensation for our clients and continue to do so today.
When pursing an SCI claim, it is important to understand the anatomy and major functions of the spinal cord. Our spinal cord injury attorneys have the knowledge and extensive resources that you want and need to obtain compensation for you injuries.
The spinal cord is the means by which the brain and the rest of the body communicate. It runs downward from the base of the brain to the lower back and is protected by the vertebrae (bones) of the spinal column. The vertebrae are separated by discs made of cartilage and between each vertebra and disc are spinal nerves that emerge from the spinal cord and send signals to specific areas of the body.
Together, the spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system (CNS). The flow of messages via the central nervous system control your motor functions (ability to control the movement of your muscles), your sensory functions (ability to “feel” things) and your autonomic functions (involuntary responses that your brain controls without having to think about it; your “reflexes”).
When the spinal cord is injured, its role as the communication conduit for the brain and the rest of the body is compromised. As a result, a spinal cord injury can drastically change a person’s life, often causing permanent changes in strength, movement, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.
The spine in divided into four sections along its length: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. The location of the nerve roots in the spinal cord determines their function. Accordingly, the severity and outcome of a spinal cord injury depends on the location of the trauma along the spinal cord. Typically, the higher on the spine the injury, the more devastating the consequences.
Spinal Cord Injuries are typically categorized as either complete or incomplete. An incomplete SCI means that the ability of the spinal cord to act as the vehicle for conveying messages to and from the brain is not completely lost. This means that after sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury, one may retain some sensory or motor function below the level of injury.
A complete SCI occurs when nerve damage obstructs all signals coming from the brain to the body below the injury. This means that all feeling (sensory function) and ability to control movement (motor function) are lost below the location of the injury on the spinal cord.
While spinal cord injuries may be severe enough to cause total paralysis, even less severe damage to the spinal cord can affect your quality of life. Additionally, if left untreated, what may have appeared to be minor damage to your spinal cord can exacerbate to a more severe injury. For example, when a spinal disc is dislocated, it may irritate or put pressure on spinal nerves, leading to a slew of other issues associated with the spinal cord. Common types of spinal disc injuries in include:
Bulging Disc: Spinal discs separate each vertebrae of the spine, acting as a cushion. They have a soft interior with a tougher exterior. They allow spinal nerves to travel from the spinal cord to the limbs. When the outer wall of a disc weakens, the disc “bulges” outward. A bulging disc injury, also referred to as a slipped or protruding disc injury, is suspected when your back pain is aggravated by sitting, bending forward, lifting, coughing or sneezing.
Herniated Disc: A herniated disc may begin as a “bulging disc.” If the bulging disc is ruptured by pressure, the softer interior of the disc may push through a tear in the tougher exterior, resulting in a herniated disc. A herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and cause pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg.
Radiculopathy: The herniated disc itself may not be painful, but when the herniated disc compresses a nearby nerve, the result may be a “pinched nerve,” or radiculopathy. Radiculopathy can occur in any part of the spine, but is most common in the lower back and neck. Symptoms of radiculopathy depend on the location of the “pinched nerve” and therefore range in severity. Cervical radiculopathy, when one of the nerve roots in your neck is compressed, may cause pain, weakness, or loss of feeling in your shoulder, arm hand or finger. Lumbar radiculopathy, when a nerve in the lower back of your spine is pinched, can cause hip pain, pain in your leg, sexual dysfunction, or paralysis in severe cases.
While spinal cord injuries were once seen as irreparable injuries, advances in the medical field have changed the prognosis for SCIs. There are now both invasive and noninvasive treatments to help restore normal functioning after a spinal cord injury. Surgical procedures on the spine typically fall into two categories: decompression or stabilization. When the disc presses on a nerve, it may need to be removed in order to decompress the pressure on the nerves. When the vertebrae is misaligned, surgical intervention may be necessary in order to stabilize and restore proper alignment to the spinal cord.
According to the World Health Organization, up to 90% of spinal cord injuries (SCI) are due to traumatic causes, the majority of which are preventable. Leading causes of spinal cord injuries are auto accidents (31.5%), falls (25.3%), gunshot wounds (10.4%), motorcycle crashes (6.8%) and medical/surgical complications (4.3%) (National SCI Database).
If you want to lead the best life you can following such a traumatic injury and maximize your chances of recovering damages, SPMC is your best bet. Call Sullivan Papain Block McGrath and Cannavo for a free consultation.
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