Many people have a simple and clear mental image of the symptoms of a spinal cord injury. A physician with extensive experience in spinal cord injuries is more likely to say, “it depends.”

Among the most common and maybe most harmful myths is that a spinal cord injury, like spilling a cup of coffee, happens in split second and is immediately obvious. The truth is that these injuries may seem, at first, to be another kind of injury entirely, or no injury at all.

Expected or familiar signs of spinal cord injury

A variety of symptoms come with injuries of different severity and different locations along the spine. Some have to do with the spine more obviously than others.

The time between the accident and professional treatment often decides the long-term amount of recovery, so it is important to be alert and take extreme precautions as soon as possible.

Whether they cause expected or unexpected symptoms, spinal cord injuries require immediate, high-quality medical attention.

Some signs lead many people to suspect a spinal cord injury right away:

  • The neck or back in a strange or twisted position.
  • Intense feeling of pain or pressure in the back, head or back.
  • Weakness or inability to move some parts or all of the body.
  • Hands, feet, fingers, or toes are numb, tingling or without feeling.

Less familiar or stranger signs of spinal cord injury

Other signs might not strike most people as having to do with the spine:

  • Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing the lungs.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Trouble balancing and walking.
  • Incoordination (parts of the body not able to work smoothly together).
  • Changes in sexual function and sensitivity.
  • Rarer symptoms, like reduced feeling on one side and numbness or vibration on the other.

Symptoms may not appear right away and can change

Like any part of the body, the spinal cord can be in shock right after an injury. Swelling or bleeding can change the symptoms with time, so the injury may not be obvious at first.

Knowing the full extent and type of injury requires a qualified medical professional.

There are many takeaways to draw from all of this. One is clearly that you should wait for complete, professional and time-tested information about the injuries and their financial consequences before you consider settling with an insurance company and signing a release of liability.