Everyone knows that car crashes can be extremely serious events. But do you realize that motor vehicle crashes account for more spinal cord injuries than any other cause? 

Unfortunately, when you injure your back in a car crash, the damage and swelling to your spinal cord can leave you partially or totally paralyzed. Worse yet, months can pass before you know whether your paralysis is temporary or permanent. 

As the Mayo Clinic explains, your spinal cord acts as the information highway between your brain and the rest of your body. As such, any damage to it or to your vertebrae surrounding it, can be catastrophic indeed. When the messages cannot get back and forth, paralysis occurs below the point of your injury. 

Consequently, in order to really understand paralysis, you need to understand your back’s five regions and which of your 33 vertebrae are located in which. The list is as follows: 

  1. Cervical region of your neck containing seven vertebrae 
  2. Thoracic region of your upper back containing 12 vertebrae 
  3. Lumbar region of your middle back containing five vertebrae 
  4. Sacral region of your lower back containing five vertebrae fused together 
  5. Coccys region of your tailbone containing four vertebrae fused together 

You become paraplegic if your spinal cord injury occurs in your lumbar or lower thoracic region. As a paraplegic, you will have little or no feeling or voluntary movement in your legs and feet. In other words, you will have to use a wheelchair to get around. You may also lose the ability to control your bowel and bladder. 

You become quadriplegic if your SCI occurs in your upper thoracic or cervical region. As a quadriplegic, you will have little or no feeling or voluntary movement in all four of your limbs or in your torso. In other words, you will have no ability to care for yourself in virtually any way and others will have to provide you with 24/7 care.