Injury to the spinal cord can result in a wide range of symptomatology, from relatively minor discomfort to paralysis.
The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that runs through the backbone, from the base of the spine, up to the brain. It is protected by spinal vertebrae and the discs between them. If our body is wrenched unusually, as is common in an automobile accident, the vertebrae can squeeze the discs between them, pushing them out towards the spinal cord, where they will impinge, causing interference with the ability of the cord to transmit neurological signals.
Spinal injury at the neck can make it difficult to breathe, and can paralyze your arms, legs and trunk (quadriplegia). An injury to the lower part of the spine can result in weakness and loss of movement or feeling only in the legs and lower parts of the body (paraplegia).
A wholly severed spinal cord cannot be repaired. In less severe cases, recovery depends of the extent of the damage.
If spinal cord injury is suspected, a CT scan, MRI or myelogram may be used as diagnostic tools. Immediate medical treatment should focus on stabilizing the spine and aggressive treatment with corticosteroid drugs to limit damage. Surgery may also be necessary to stabilize the spine or fuse the spine with metal plates or pins. Once the initial injury heals, functional improvements may continue for at least six months. After that time period, any remaining disability is likely to be permanent.