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Spinal Cord Injury


UK [1]

  • Every year, over 1,000 people sustain a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and there are thought to be 40,000 people living with SCI in the UK alone

What is it?

The spinal cord runs through a chain of boney rings known as the vertebrae. This vertebral column protects the spinal cord that works like a telephone cable sending messages of feeling and sensation to the brain which converts them into responses such as movement. When the spinal cord is injured these messages are interrupted or cannot get through at all. Depending on the extent of damage to the spinal cord, a person will be either partially or completely paralysed from the point of damage (lesion) downwards.


The spinal cord is injured usually through trauma (injury) to the delicate fibres of the spinal cord. Common causes of spinal cord injury include road traffic accidents, diving accidents and sports injuries. But it is not always trauma that damages the spinal cord. Viruses and viral infections, cysts and growths on the cord can all cause permanent damage.

Types of injury

Paraplegia - resulting from a broken back, is paralysis from the chest or waist downwards, with little or no movement or feeling in the lower limbs and lower part of the trunk.

Tetraplegia - resulting from a broken neck also affects the arms and hands.


Fractures or compression of the vertebrae that cause permanent damage to the cord may lead to loss of sensation, movement, bladder and bowel control, as well as affecting sexual function.

Further information



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