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Injuires / 17 January 2020

What Is the Difference Between Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries?

Your brain and spinal cord work together to form the central nervous system, a complex mechanism that controls everything the body can do. With a system this complicated and crucial, it’s no wonder that even the slightest injury or mishap to our spinal cord can wreak a fair amount of havoc. When it comes to this damage, the difference between complete and incomplete injuries is far more than mere semantics.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at the key differences between these two injury types and how NJ Spine and Wellness can help.

What Are Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries?

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can occur from any number of forceful impacts, from sports collisions to car accidents. When the protection around your spinal cord is damaged, it decreases your brain’s ability to send and receive messages to the rest of the body, which can lead to impaired senses and motor function. Of course, not all spinal cord injuries are the same, and the big-picture differentiator is whether the injury is incomplete or complete.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

When you sustain an incomplete SCI, your brain still has some level of communication with your spinal cord. While you may experience some form of impaired muscle function and movement below the location of the injury, there is some degree of sensation left. Many diagnosed with an incomplete SCI also struggle with chronic pain as a result.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete SCIs entail a total lack of sensation and movement below the place of injury. They typically lead to paralysis. Common characteristics of a complete spinal cord injury include sensory loss, loss of motion and difficulty with incontinence as well as problems with the respiratory system, depending on how high on the body the injury took place. Because of the complete sensory loss, there’s typically no pain associated with a patient’s paralysis, although they can experience pain or discomfort as a result in other parts of their body.

How Are These Injury Types Different?

Immediately following an accident that causes a spinal cord injury, it’s often difficult to tell whether the patient has a complete or incomplete SCI due to swelling and impact injury. However, over time, the difference will become clear.

With an incomplete SCI, your spinal cord is still able to retain some level of function, allowing for faster progress in recovery. A complete SCI means that there’s no function, movement or sensation, typically from the point of injury and below. The brain is no longer able to send messages to these parts of the body through the central nervous system via the spinal cord.

Many doctors use the ASIA Impairment Scale to measure the level of complete or incompleteness when it comes to these injuries. On this scale, there is only one form of complete SCI, whereas there are varying levels of incomplete injuries. These range from the more drastic level B, in which patients have a sensory function but no motor function, to level D, in which motor function is preserved through at least half of key muscles functioning to a certain degree.

Contact NJ Spine and Wellness Regarding Care for a Spinal Cord Injury

Whether your injury classifies as complete or incomplete, NJ Spine and Wellness is here to help. As an out-of-network health care provider, we offer premium physical therapy and surgical care to help you get better faster. We provide premium service and committed care without the red tape of overly long wait times and complicated processes. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment!

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