What Is Spinal Cord Injury?

12 Dec 2022 | Spinal Injury Care

Each year, the number of people in the UK with a spinal cord injury or diagnosed with a life-changing spinal cord injury is estimated to be around 2,500, whilst the total number of people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK is 50,000. These estimates are from three of the leading charities providing support to spinal cord injured people, Spinal Injuries Association, Aspire and Back Up.

The stereotypical view of a spinal cord injured person is of a young man and a motorbike accident. However, recent NHS data shows this is no longer the case. More older people are sustaining spinal cord injuries from falls, and an increasing number of women are becoming spinal cord injured from diagnosed illnesses and conditions.

Here we will learn more about what spinal cord injury is.

What is the spinal cord?

The spinal cord is a long, tube-like band of tissue that connects the brain to the lower back. It sends nerve signals back and forth between the brain and the body to allow feeling and movement. Any damage to the nerves on this pathway can affect movement and function.

Types of Spinal Cord Injury

Most spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma (such as an accident or fall) or a disease like cancer. The majority of spinal injuries arise from car accidents, falls, sporting injuries or surgical complications. They are usually divided into two types:

  • Complete spinal cord injury – resulting in permanent damage to the spinal cord and the affected areas of the body.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury – partial damage to the spinal cord and the affected areas of the body. The resulting movement and feeling in the region depends on the severity of the injury.

Levels of Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal column is divided into four sections: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Nerves from different parts of the body connect to the spinal cord. Therefore the area of the body affected will relate to the section of the spinal cord which has been injured.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries

Injuries at the cervical level affect the head and neck region above the shoulders. This is the most severe spinal cord injury affecting most of the body from the neck down.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injuries

Injuries at the thoracic level affect the upper chest, mid-back and abdominal muscles. Arm and hand function is usually normal with this level of spinal cord injury.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries

Injuries at the lumbar level affect the hips and legs, often resulting in the need to use a wheelchair or walk with braces. 

Sacral Spinal Cord Injuries

Injuries at the sacral affect the hips, back of the thighs, buttocks and pelvic organs. Walking is often still possible with this injury.


Whatever the level of spinal cord injury, most affected people will need some level of support for day-to-day living in order to live a fulfilled and independent life. Eximius have expert carers and companions to care for you or your loved one, however simple or complex the care needs are. 

Every spinal cord injured person has the care and support they need and deserve to lead a fulfilled and independent life.

You can read more here about how we are supporting our clients with a spinal injury.

Choosing the right care is an important decision, and our experienced team is here to help every step of the way. Please do not hesitate to contact us. We are more than happy to help.

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