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How to tell if you got a spinal cord injury after a car accident

If you are in a car accident, your spinal cord may suffer damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, motor vehicle crashes account for roughly half of all spinal cord injuries every year. If you get into an auto crash, you may be wondering if you have a spinal cord injury.

It is important to understand the symptoms of spinal cord injuries and get an examination from a doctor. Here are some symptoms to watch out for and information on how a doctor may diagnose you.

Types of spinal cord injuries

First, it is crucial to know about the different kinds of spinal cord injuries and paralysis:

  • Incomplete: An incomplete spinal cord injury occurs when you still have sensor or motor functions below the injured area.
  • Complete: If you lose all movement and feeling below the injury, it is a complete injury.
  • Paraplegia: Paralysis that affects the legs, trunk and pelvic organs.
  • Tetraplegia: Paralysis that affects your hands, arms, legs, trunk and pelvic organs.

Your doctor will determine the location and severity of your spinal cord injury to determine what you are experiencing. 

Signs of a spinal cord injury

Many symptoms of a damaged spinal cord are common amongst all types of injuries. Some signs include the following:

  • Inability to control your bladder or bowels
  • Loss of or change in sensation
  • Loss of movement
  • Impairment in sexual function
  • Intense stinging or pain because of nerve damage
  • Difficulty coughing or breathing
  • Extreme pain or pressure in your back or neck
  • Numbness in your extremities

You should seek immediate medical attention if you suffer trauma to your neck, back or head.

Diagnosing spinal cord injuries

In order to figure out whether you have a spinal cord injury, a doctor may conduct an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. He or she may also test your ability to feel sensations and assess your muscle strength.

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