Unfortunately, a car crash represents one of the common ways in which you can sustain a spinal cord injury that could put you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. 

Per the Mayo Clinic, an SCI occurs when a traumatic event disrupts or severs the connection between your brain and the rest of your body that runs down your back. 

Vertebrae and their location 

Thirty-three vertebrae surround your spinal cord. When you injure your neck or back in a car crash or other catastrophic accident, your injury most likely will occur in one of the three following areas: 

  1. Your cervical (neck) area containing your seven cervical vertebrae 
  2. Your thoracic (upper back) area containing your 12 thoracic vertebrae 
  3. Your lumbar (lower back) area containing your five lumbar vertebrae 

Resulting paralysis 

The amount of paralysis you will sustain depends on two factors: the location of your SCI and its severity. The parts of your body below your injury point will become paralyzed. Consequently, The higher up your SCI, the more paralysis you will sustain. 

An SCI to your lumbar or lower thoracic area results in paraplegia, paralysis and loss of sensation in your legs, feet, hips and possibly stomach. You will not be able to walk and you likely will lose bowel and bladder control as well. 

An SCI to your cervical or upper thoracic area results in quadriplegia, paralysis and loss of sensation in your arms and hands as well as in your legs, feet and the majority of your torso. Quadriplegia renders you unable to provide for any of your basic daily needs, thus requiring the ministrations of 24/7 caregivers. 

With an incomplete SCI, you stand a reasonable chance of regaining much of the voluntary movement and sensation your injury caused you to lose. Your recovery, however, will require untold hours of grueling physical therapy. Conversely, a complete SCI offers you virtually no hope of ever resuming your normal activities. 

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