Suffering a spinal cord injury in an accident can cause most people to run the gambit of emotions, including fear, frustration and anger. In weeks after your accident, you may not be able to move and experience a great deal of pain. You may begin to wonder whether you will ever return to the life you had prior to the accident. In some cases, doctors can tell you with certainty what your future holds, but in other cases, only time can provide the answers you need regarding your future.
A combination of factors influences your prognosis. One of the first factors is whether doctors considered your injury complete, which means that you have no sensation and movement below the injury site, or incomplete, which means that you have some sensation and movement below the injury site. Thereafter, the severity and location of the injury drive your prognosis. Your health prior to the accident influences how your body reacts to any rehabilitation efforts as well, along with any disabilities or impairments connected to your injury.
The lumbar region — L1 to L5
An SCI in this region of the spine (your lower back) often causes paraplegia, which indicates a loss of sensation and mobility in the lower part of your body, particularly your legs. If you retain some movement in your legs, your prognosis could include the ability to walk with assistive devices or braces, but only for short distances. You may enjoy a certain amount of autonomy and independence.
The thoracic region — T6 to T12
An SCI in this region (your upper back) indicates that you have no function below the waist, but you can control your torso. You may be able to participate in some sports, can control a wheelchair and be able to balance while you sit. You may still have some independence and autonomy.
The thoracic region — T1 to T6
An injury to the upper part of the thoracic region indicates that you have no function from the middle of your chest down. However, you can control your arms. You retain some independence with the aid of a wheelchair and should still be able to take care of many of your needs on your own.
The cervical region — C7 to C8
An SCI in this region of your spine (your neck) indicates quadriplegia, which means that you lost sensation and movement in all of your limbs and possibly your chest.
With a permanent injury to C8, you retain arm movement even though your hands may weaken. With a permanent injury to C7, you retain some movement in your wrists, shoulders, hands and elbows. You may still be able to propel a wheelchair when outside and even drive a modified vehicle. You may be able to transfer yourself, but you may need assistance with your bladder and bowel functions. You may still be able to take care of your daily needs.
The cervical region — C5 to C6
A C6 injury usually leaves you with some movement in your shoulders, elbows and wrists. You may be able to operate a wheelchair indoors but not outdoors. You may still be able to feed, dress and groom yourself with some assistance but cannot transfer yourself.
A C5 injury usually leaves you with some movement in your shoulders and elbows, and you may still be able to breathe without a ventilator. However, you may still need some form of respiratory assistance. You may be able to operate your wheelchair indoors only and then only on smooth surfaces. You may need assistive devices to feed yourself.
The cervical spine — C2 to C4
Injuries in this region of your neck make you totally reliant on others for all your care needs. In addition, you will probably need a ventilator. Injuries to C2 and C3 are also often fatal due to breathing issues.
Regardless of your prognosis, you will probably need medical and other care of some sort for the rest of your life. You may pursue compensation from the party or parties responsible for your injuries to help with the costs associated with those needs.