Should you sustain a spinal cord injury in a car crash or other catastrophic accident, it may well change your life forever. Why? Because your spinal cord represents the communication line between your brain and the rest of your body. If it becomes injured, your body could become partially or completely paralyzed from your injury point downward. Depending on whether you sustain a partial or complete injury, you may or may not recover some voluntary movement and/or sensation in the paralyzed parts of your body. 

Per the Mayo Clinic, medical professionals identify and name your SCI based on its location as follows: 

  • C1-C7: an SCI to one of the seven cervical vertebrae located in your neck 
  • T1-T12: an SCI to one of the 12 thoracic vertebrae located in your upper back 
  • L1-L5: an SCI to one of the five lumbar vertebrae located in your lower back 

Paraplegia 

When your SCI occurs somewhere in your lumbar or lower thoracic region, the result in paraplegia: your inability to voluntarily move or feel sensation in your legs, feet and virtually anywhere else below your waist. Not only will you require a wheelchair to move from place to place, you also will lose partial or all control over your bowel and bladder. 

Quadriplegia 

When your SCI occurs somewhere in your cervical or upper thoracic region, the result is quadriplegia: your inability to voluntarily move or feel sensation in your arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet and virtually anywhere else below your point of injury. This puts you in the position of having to rely on others to provide you with all of your daily needs, including eating, drinking, showering, dressing and undressing, combing your hair, brushing your teeth and transferring back and forth from your bed to your wheelchair.