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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries?


A spinal cord injury can be one of the most severe injuries someone can sustain in an accident. Although a complete recovery is possible with some types of spinal cord injury, some people experience long-term, life-changing complications from the damage to their spinal cord.

Below are the most common long-term effects of spinal cord injuries.


Damage to any part of the spinal cord can lead to paralysis. Paralysis occurs when something disrupts the transmission of nerve signals to muscles. Paralysis prevents voluntary movements.

For some, paralysis is temporary. Regaining partial or complete movement is possible over time. However, permanent paralysis is an irreversible condition that prevents muscle control in the affected area.

There are multiple types of paralysis depending on the extent of the injury, including:

  • Monoplegia – The injury only affects one limb, such as a leg or arm
  • Diplegia – Paralysis of the same area on both sides of the body, such as both sides of the face or both legs
  • Hemiplegia – Paralysis affecting one side of the body
  • Paraplegia – The injury involves both legs and sometimes the torso
  • Quadriplegia – Paralysis of all limbs and little to no movement from the neck down 


Osteoporosis is a medical condition involving the weakening and thinning of bones, making them more susceptible to fracture. According to a paper published in the National Library of Medicine, over 50 percent of patients with a complete spinal cord injury develop osteoporosis within one year of the injury.

Sometimes, osteoporosis doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms. That means many people are unaware of their condition. Signs that can indicate osteoporosis include:

  • Collapsed vertebrae causing a decrease in height, severe pain, or spine deformity
  • Broken bones from a minor bump or fall, primarily in the wrists, hips, or spine

Muscle Spasticity

Those with a spinal cord injury are often affected by muscle spasticity. Spasticity occurs when an injury affects the motor system, preventing sensory nerves from carrying messages from the skin or inside the body to the brain. It causes involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. After a spinal cord injury, spasticity can develop below the affected area of the body.

The most common symptoms of spasticity include:

  • Pain
  • Recurrent spasms
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Tightness
  • Involuntary movements
  • Increased muscle tone


Syringomyelia is a cyst filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) called a syrinx forming in the spinal cord. The syrinx can cause various symptoms depending on where it forms along the spine, its size, and how long it extends. The most common symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs or arms
  • Pain down the neck, arms, into the mid back or legs
  • Balance problems and trouble walking
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Progressive muscle atrophy and weakness in the arms or legs
  • Loss of sensitivity to pain or temperature, especially in the hands
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Scientists aren’t sure of the underlying reason for developing a syrinx. However, theories suggest disruption or obstruction of the flow of CSF might lead to syringomyelia. A spinal cord injury can lead to a buildup of scar tissue blocking the flow of CSF. It can occur months or years after the initial trauma.


Infections can develop after a spinal cord injury. The most common type of vertebral infection is vertebral osteomyelitis. The most common symptoms of vertebral osteomyelitis include:

  • Weight loss
  • Severe back pain
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Fever
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neurological deficits, such as numbness or weakness of the legs or arms
  • Chills

Contact an Experienced Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Today

Seeking immediate treatment is crucial after a spinal cord injury. You should also contact Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, to determine your legal options if someone else caused the accident that injured you. You might be entitled to compensation from the person or company responsible for the accident.

Call 951-686-4800 or contact us online for a consultation if you sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident due to someone else’s negligence. We have represented Riverside clients since 2004 and are ready to help you hold the negligent party liable.

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