As a New Jersey driver, no one need tell you that our streets, highways and freeways can pose numerous dangers to you and your passengers. But did you know that a car crash can change your life forever? It is true. Should you suffer an injury to your neck or back during a car crash, the result could be partial or complete paralysis that will put you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.
Your spinal column, consisting of your spinal cord and the 33 vertebrae that surround it, represents your body’s information highway. Messages travel back and forth between your brain and the rest of your body, controlling how you move and what you feel. If a spinal cord injury impairs or severs this connection, the messages cannot get through; the result is paralysis.
Spinal cord regions
Medical researchers and health care professionals divide your back into the following five regions:
- Neck, called your cervical region, where you have seven vertebrae
- Upper back, called your thoracic region, where you have 12 vertebrae
- Middle back, called your lumbar region, where you have five vertebrae
- Lower back, called your sacral region, where you have five vertebrae fused together
- Tailbone, called your coccyx region, where you have four vertebrae fused together
Once you understand this spinal column construction, you can more easily understand the devastating consequences of an SCI. Keep in mind that the paralysis will affect the portions of your body below your injury.
Paraplegia represents the paralyzing condition resulting from sustaining an SCI to your lumbar or lower thoracic region. “Para” means “two,” and your two legs are the two limbs affected by this type of paralysis. As a paraplegic, you will be unable to move or feel your legs or feet, and thus will be unable to walk. Depending on the precise location of your SCI, you also may be unable to control your bladder and bowel.
Quadriplegia represents the paralyzing condition resulting from sustaining an SCI to your cervical or upper thoracic region. “Quad” means “four,” and your arms and legs are the four limbs affected by this type of paralysis. As a quadriplegic, you will be unable to move or feel not only your arms, hands, fingers, legs and feet, but also most of your torso. Consequently, you will be unable to do virtually anything for yourself and will require the constant care of others to maintain your life.