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A spinal cord injury may not be immediately obvious after a crash

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are one of the most serious types of injury that can be caused by a car crash. SCIs involve damage to the spinal cord itself or damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks in the spinal column, and this type of injury can lead to paralysis below the injury site.

Although you might think that an injury that can lead to paralysis would be immediately obvious after a crash, this is not always the case. Sometimes symptoms show up over time as swelling or internal bleeding occurs. SCIs can become more severe if they are not treated right away, which is why it is important to be examined by a medical professional after any car crash. It may even be prudent to seek emergency medical help if you experienced any trauma to your head, neck or back.

How can I tell if I have an SCI?

Only a medical professional can officially rule out the possibility of a SCI. However, SCIs can be made worse with movement, so it can also be valuable to be able to identify some of the symptoms on your own.

If you are involved in a car crash, it is important to stay calm. Paralysis or an oddly twisted back or neck are obvious signs that you may have a SCI. However, some less obvious symptoms you might exhibit, include:

  • Pressure in your head, neck or back
  • Extreme back pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Altered sensation
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Spasms
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities
  • Difficulty with balance

What should I do if I think I have a SCI after a car crash?

If you think you may have a SCI after being in a car crash, it is important to request emergency medical help. If you are unable to call 911, try to get someone else to call on your behalf. As you wait for help to arrive, try to remain as calm and as still as possible to help prevent complications.

Emergency responders will likely stabilize your spine with a rigid neck collar and a carrying board. Once at the hospital, you may undergo various tests, like x-rays, as doctors focus on preventing shock and preventing complications.

There is no way to reverse spinal cord damage, but you can recover. After your swelling goes down, you may work with a variety of specialists who will help you gain the skills and technologies to live as independently as possible.

SCIs can be life-altering. If you receive a SCI because of a negligent driver, it may be appropriate to seek justice. You may be able to receive compensation for medical bills and other costs associated with your injury.

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