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What is an incomplete spinal cord injury?

Catastrophic injury specialists make a distinction between "incomplete" spinal cord injuries and "complete" spinal cord injuries. When a person suffers an incomplete injury to the spine, he or she is not fully paralyzed and can still feel some sensation below the point of the injury. In contrast, a complete spinal cord injury means full paralysis.

You might think it better to have suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury rather than a complete injury. Nonetheless, a host of other medical problems can accompany an incomplete spinal cord injury, and recovery is by no means certain.

This is the first of two blog posts on incomplete spinal cord injuries. In the second, we will look at complications arising from these injuries and treatment options.

What are the chances of recovery?

Some incomplete spinal cord injuries may be so mild that the injured person has almost no muscle weakness. More serious incomplete injuries have effects that are little different than complete spinal cord injuries. Most incomplete injuries fall in between.

Here are some additional facts about incomplete spinal cord injuries:

  • Three out of four people who had some movement in their legs immediately after an injury got significantly better.
  • Only one in seven people in Colorado who suffered complete paralysis after an accident got a significant amount of movement back.
  • If you continue to regain movement in additional muscles as time passes, the more likely it is that you will continue to improve.
  • There are fewer people who have incomplete spinal cord injuries than have complete injuries.

And then there's this irony: If you continue to see improvement, you may not qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits. Insurers often take a "wait-and-see" attitude in such cases. The same goes for Social Security Disability benefits and Medicaid.

Fortunately for spinal cord injury victims, there are excellent rehabilitation resources in Colorado, including world-renowned Craig Hospital in Englewood. Those who have suffered a spinal cord injury while working may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. If you have questions about a claim or think you are not getting the medical care you need, speak with an attorney.

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