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

A spinal cord injury may occur from various types of circumstances, including:

  1. Collisions. If a driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian or e-scooter rider is involved in a motor vehicle accident, they could suffer from a spinal cord injury depending on the intensity of the impact. Immediate medical attention must be administered to treat the problem.
  2. Sports-related injuries. High impact sports, such as hockey and football, require players to aggressively attack each other to get a ball or puck. A spinal cord injury may occur if a player is hit from behind or if a player lands on their back during a fall.
  3. Slip and fall. Property owners, of homes or businesses, are responsible for making sure their property is safe for people to walk in. For example, grocery stores typically have employees cleaning the floors. In some cases, an  employee may forget to leave a warning sign out for shoppers to be aware of the wet floor. A customer who is walking in this slippery area may fall and land on their back. This could result in a spinal cord injury depending on how intense the contact to the floor was.
  4. Diseases. Osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, and inflammation of the spinal cord will affect the victim’s body by weakening the muscles. This will increase the likelihood of a spinal cord injury regardless of the severity of a fall.
  5. Physical violence. If a gunshot or knife wound pierces through the spinal canal, it may fracture the pedicles and facets, thus causing severe spinal cord damage.

Unfortunately, a large majority of spinal cord injuries are permanent. Since a spinal cord injury is directed towards the nerves that send signals to the brain, it will be nearly impossible to fully control your body as you used to prior to the accident. There may be a possible chance of suffering from a temporary spinal cord injury, however, it may still be difficult to regain your senses and movements.

If you were a victim of a spinal cord injury and would like to file a lawsuit against the individual at-fault due to their negligence, West Coast Trial Lawyers has San Bernardino spinal cord injury attorneys with over 60 years of collective legal experience in handling personal injury cases. With our track record of winning over 5,000 cases, we have been acknowledged as one of the top personal injury law firms in San Bernardino. 

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our San Bernardino personal injury law firm, please contact our 24/7 legal team by calling (909) 787-2178 or emailing [email protected].

Complete vs Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

An individual who suffers from a complete spinal cord injury will have no sensation or motor control below their injury. Additional other symptoms may include having a hard time maintaining bladder or bowel movements and difficulty breathing. It is very possible that the victim could also get diagnosed with paraplegia or tetraplegia.

  • Paraplegia. Emerges when damage is done to the sacral, lumbar, or thoracic sections of the spinal cord.
  • Tetraplegia. Occurs when damage is done to the cervical section of the spinal cord.

An incomplete spinal cord injury is when an individual may still have some feeling in areas below their injury. A spinal cord may still be able to send messages between the brain and body. This injury could be categorized as partial paralysis. Common symptoms for an incomplete spinal cord injury include:

  • Chronic pain occurring below the injury.
  • Feeling some sensation every now and then below the injury.
  • Ability to move muscles below the injury. The amount of muscle movement depends on how severe the injury is.


There are several factors that contribute to a victim’s difficult journey to improve their spinal cord. This includes:

  • The injured area. A victim can endure a temporary or permanent injury depending on what area of the spinal cord endured impact. As previously mentioned, paraplegia may occur if damage is done to the sacral, thoracic, or lumbar sections of the spinal cord. Tetraplegia may occur if the cervical area is harmed.
  • Health status. If the victim is already suffering from illnesses that weaken their bones, it will be very difficult for the spinal cord to regain any level of strength. Furthermore, if the victim is dealing with an infection, it may increase the swelling of the injured area and push back the recovery process.
  • Medical care. If the victim has been receiving a high quality level of medical care and treatment, then they may have a chance at making a recovery.
  • Commitment to physical therapy. If the victim is determined to participate in physical therapy sessions for a long period of time, then they will start to see noticeable improvement.

Overall, there is no accurate way to determine how long it may take for an individual to notice effective results from their spinal cord injury treatment. Each person endures a different form of pain that could take an extensive amount of time to heal. Unfortunately, those who have endured a severe spinal cord injury will most likely not have a chance of making improvements that will allow them to function the same way as they did prior to the incident.

To get a better idea of where you stand with your spinal cord injury, you should seek help from a doctor. The doctor will run tests and procedures to determine a diagnosis. Once the diagnosis has been found, the doctor will create a treatment plan that best suits your condition. The treatment may either help you make a recovery or will help you live life a bit more comfortably.

Contact Us

If you have suffered a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury due to negligent actions committed by another individual, West Coast Trial Lawyers has experienced San Bernardino spinal cord injury attorneys that are readily available to help you with your case. Our attorneys will make it a priority to get you the justice you deserve.

Contact us today by calling (909) 787-2178 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable, caring, and compassionate legal team.

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