Overview on a spinal cord injury

A spinal cord injury is a serious case that necessitates prompt medical care. Depending on the seriousness of the damage, it can lead to brief paralysis or even lasting complications.

Take note that the spinal cord starts at the base of the neck and passes through the back. Damage to the spine is likely to occur among athletes, elderly and those involved in vehicular accidents.

Usual causes of spinal cord injury

There are various causes for a spinal cord injury such as:

  • Injuries during sports or high-velocity motor racing
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Fall injuries particularly from great heights
  • Being struck by heavy objects on the back
  • Occupational hazards especially those working with mechanical tools or equipment
  • Any force that violently twists one half of the body
  • High-voltage electric shocks
  • Assault, abuse and violence

    The indications of a spinal cord injury are based on the seriousness of the damage.

What are the signs?

The indications of a spinal cord injury are based on the seriousness of the damage. It generally varies for each individual and might include:

  • Moderate to intense pain in the back or neck
  • Bleeding and bruising at the site of injury
  • Difficulty moving or getting up as well as walking normally
  • Fractures
  • Loss of control on the legs and arms
  • Loss of bowel/bladder control
  • Sensory disturbances such as numbness or tingling
  • Evident physical deformity such as an abnormally twisted head or body position
  • Shock
  • Loss of consciousness


Call for emergency assistance if the spinal cord injury is due to trauma or accident or if the symptoms are severe.

  • Do not attempt to move the individual if a head, neck or back injury is suspected.
  • Avoid moving the individual to assess for other injuries.
  • If vomiting, tilt the body of the individual to the side.
  • If needed, provide support using cushions, towels or hold the head and neck to prevent it from shifting until the emergency team arrives on the scene.
  • Do not ask the individual to get up and walk if there is a possible spinal cord injury.
  • If a helmet is worn or other safety gear, do not remove it.
  • If breathing is absent, perform CPR.
  • In case there is bleeding from other wounds, apply pressure to control the blood flow.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a spinal cord injury is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Kelowna First Aid.