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Spinal cord injury

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibres which carry information from parts of the body to the brain (such as information about the things we touch, and whether the feel hot or cold, or rough or smooth), and carry information from the brain to the body (such as commands which are sent from the brain to our muscles to make them move).

If the spinal cord is injured, the information flow can be disrupted disrupted and can lead to paralysis. Such an injury might be caused by a car accident, a sports injury or having a bad fall.

People will have different abilities after a spinal cord injury depending on where along the spine the injury happened.

The spine and spinal cord can be divided into 3 sections of vertebrae - the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.

The higher up the spinal cord the damage occurs, the more function will be lost. This is because as the cord gets nearer to the brain, more body parts are connected to the cord. For example, someone with a spinal cord injury in the top 4 vertebrae (C1-C4) will have little to no movement from the neck down and might need special equipment to help them breathe.

Someone with a spinal cord injury lower down in the thoracic region of the spine will have full use of their upper body, but may be paralysed from the waist down (paraplegia). They will probably need a wheelchair to get around.

Someone with a spinal injury in the lower back (the lumbar area) might have some limited lower body movement and may need a wheelchair or other mobility aid.

The NHS website provides information on the different types and causes of paralysis.

The Spinal Injuries Association are a national user-led charity for spinal cord injured (SCI) people.

The Brain And Spinal Injury Charity (BASIC) are a charity providing counselling, information and support services for patients and their families following a brain or spinal injury.

Aspire offers practical support to people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK so that they can lead fulfilled and independent lives in their homes, with their families, in work places and in leisure time

Last updated: 07/07/2021