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Can a Spinal Cord injury affect the body?

A spinal cord injury is usually caused by a serious accident, fall or disease. The effects of a spinal cord injury can be difficult to predict. This type of injury can be very serious and the effects of a spinal cord injury can be permanent, often impacting many other bodily functions.

Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is the link between the brain and the nerves in the rest of your body. The brain and spinal cord work together enabling you to move and feel sensations. The spinal cord also helps to control the body’s temperature as well as blood pressure and heart rate. Messages are carried through the spinal cord up to the brain, allowing your brain to control these functions.

When the spinal cord is damaged, messages will not be able to reach the brain, resulting in reflex movements. Reflex movements cannot be controlled.

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The spinal cord may also experience something which is called ‘spinal shock.’ This involves temporary loss of all spinal cord reflexes. Spinal shock may last for days or even weeks and can’t be prevented. There is no treatment, the injury must resolve itself.


Due to the brain and the spinal cord working hand-in-hand, the brain may suffer from a few injuries. The most common are concussion, memory loss and lack of concentration. The severity of a brain injury will depend on the damage to the spinal cord. Severe brain injuries may include permanent memory loss and personality changes.


The spinal cord helps control the body’s temperature. When the spinal cord is damaged your body will be unable to adjust its temperature due to messages being unable to reach the brain. Sufferers may lose the ability to sweat and make goose bumps. The body may go through phases of being very cold to very hot and this will be uncontrollable.

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A spinal cord injury may damage the muscles needed for breathing such as the diaphragm, intercostal and abdominal.  The body needs these muscles to work effectively to allow people to breath and cough well. If these muscles are damaged, coughing may become weaker, preventing the lungs from getting rid of bad bacteria. If a bacterium builds up, it may cause pneumonia.


Spinal injuries will affect the neck which will disable your ability to swallow properly. In this case, a nasogastric tube will be placed through the nose into the stomach to allow liquid nutrition and medication to be passed through continuously. A healthcare professional will ensure that the right amount of nutrition and fluids are prescribed.

Stomach Ileus

A nasogastric tube may also be needed to remove stomach acids. Occasionally, after a spinal injury the stomach and intestine may not work for a short while. This may cause stomach acids to build up, damaging the stomach lining, forming ulcers if not removed.

You may also experience constipation or diarrhea due to changes in the bowel caused by the injury.


Bladder Control

The bladder may be weakened after a spinal injury because the messages from the bladder signalling to urinate will not reach the brain. A urinary catheter may be placed in the bladder to drain the urine. A urologist will assess your bladder’s volume and if satisfactory, the catheter will be removed. The lack of control will all depend on the severity of the spinal cord injury.


When signals to the brain from the muscles are blocked, contractures may occur. This means that tendons and muscles may shorten. Treatment can include repositioning, medication and even Botox injections.

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A spinal cord injury will affect both men and women in different ways.

A woman’s menstrual cycle is often affected and in some cases may not resume. However, women have been able to have children and deliver vaginally after a spinal cord injury.

Males will still be able to maintain erections, although they may often be uncontrollable. However, some men may suffer from erectile dysfunction, but with treatment and time this will usually pass, but this will depend on the severity of the spinal injury.

Sexual intercourse is important in a relationship; however, there are other ways you can show love and intimacy. Kissing, hugging, touching and laughing are also important in a loving relationship.

A healthcare provider will be able to put you in touch with sexual counselling programmes should you seek professional help.

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Claiming Spinal Injury Compensation

If you have suffered a spinal injury, serious injury claim solicitors will be able to secure the treatment and support you deserve during this difficult time.

Carter and Carter Solicitors are experts in dealing with spinal cord injury claims. Our team of experts understand how a spinal cord injury affects every aspect of your life and will address all of these issues professionally and sympathetically.

We will offer our professional advice to you and help you secure medical treatment and financial support, particularly if you are unlikely to return to work in any capacity. We will provide you with our knowledge and work towards getting you the compensation you deserve without any cost to you.

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Make a free enquiry with us today or call us free on 0800 652 0586 to speak with one of our friendly team members.