Spinal cord injuries are usually sustained from a blow that fractures or dislocates one or more vertebrae, the bony disks that make up the spine and provide protection for the spinal cord. Most injuries don’t sever the spinal cord. Instead, they cause damage when pieces of vertebrae tear into cord tissue or press down on the nerve parts that carry signals. In a complete spinal cord injury, the cord can’t relay messages below the level of the injury, resulting in paralysis from the level of the injury down. In an incomplete injury, the patient may have some movement and sensation below the injury.
A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency and immediate treatment may reduce long-term effects. Later treatment usually includes medicine and rehabilitation therapy.