What are the Different Types of Spinal Injuries?

Understanding your spinal injury can be complicated. Doctors categorize spinal injuries in several different ways, and many types of spinal injuries have similar or overlapping symptoms. However, understanding your spinal injury is extremely important, as you need to make sure that both: (i) you have realistic expectations; and, (ii) you know what you need to do in order to maximize your recovery.

Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer Mickey Fine has been helping accident victims for more than 30 years. He has extensive experience helping injured people obtain the justice and compensation they need to move forward with their lives.

Degenerative Spinal Injuries vs. Traumatic Spinal Injuries

Broadly speaking, a spinal injury can either be categorized as “degenerative” or “traumatic”. A degenerative spinal injury is one that results from wear and tear over time. Some degenerative conditions are also hereditary in nature.

A traumatic spinal injury is one that results from an accident. This could be a vehicle accident, a bicycle accident, a fall, a collision with an object or another person, or any of a variety of other types of traumatic events.

Generally speaking, the options for recovering financial compensation for a degenerative spinal injury are limited (although there are options, for example, if you got hurt at work). On the other hand, individuals who suffer traumatic spinal injuries in serious accidents will often have claims for just compensation.

Spinal Cord Injuries Described By Region

Doctors also categorize spinal injuries based on the region of the spine in which an injury occurs. There are four regions of the spinal cord:

  • Cervical Spine – The cervical spine is the uppermost portion where the brain connects to the spinal cord. It consists of eight vertebrae, which are labeled C1-C8 from top to bottom.
  • Thoracic Spine – The thoracic spine is located in the middle back below the cervical region. It consists of 12 vertebrae, which are labeled T1-T12.
  • Lumbar Spine – The lumbar spine is located in the lower back below the thoracic region. There are five lumbar vertebrae, which are labeled L1-L5.
  • Sacral Spine – The sacral spine is the lowest portion of the spinal cord, sitting below the lumbar region and above the tailbone. It also consists of five vertebrae, which are labeled S1-S5.

Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Next, doctors will generally describe spinal injuries as either “complete” or “incomplete.” A spinal injury is considered a “complete” injury if it results in permanent total loss of function below the affected area of the spine. A spinal injury is considered “incomplete” if it causes partial damage that does not result in total impairment to the affected area.

Some doctors also classify spinal injuries according to the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grading scale:

  • ASIA A – Complete spinal injury “with no sensory or motor function preserved.”
  • ASIA B – Incomplete spinal injury resulting in complete motor function loss but retention of sensory function.
  • ASIA C – Incomplete spinal injury resulting in some loss of motor movement, “but less than half the muscle groups are anti-gravity (can lift up against the force of gravity with a full range of motion).”
  • ASIA D – Incomplete spinal injury resulting in less than half of the muscle groups losing anti-gravity function.

Specific Spinal Injury Diagnoses

Finally, a doctor may also identify a patient’s spinal injury based on the patient’s specific diagnosis. There are numerous possible diagnoses, some of which may be categorized as complete or incomplete, and others of which may fully heal with treatment, rest, and rehabilitative therapy. Some of the more common spinal injury diagnoses include:

Bulging Disc

Bulging discs are generally degenerative spinal injuries. They are characterized by stiffening of the cartilage in the disc, which causes the disc to stiffen and potentially to protrude or prolapse outside of the vertebrae.

Herniated Disc

Herniated discs occur when the outer layer of cartilage cracks, or “ruptures.” For this reason, they are also commonly known as ruptured discs. Herniated discs can result from wear and tear or from accident-related trauma.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be symptomatic of a wide range of spinal injuries. While not strictly an “injury” but more of a symptom, lower back pain is among the most common complaints among accident victims and individuals who perform repetitive tasks or sit or stand for prolonged periods at work.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage in the spinal cord can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or paralysis. Many severe accidents victims suffer nerve damage; and, in many cases, these injuries impact the rest of their lives.


Paralysis is defined as, “loss of strength in and control over a muscle or group of muscles in a part [or parts] of the body.” Depending on the location and severity of a person’s spinal injury, paralysis can either be total (quadriplegia) or partial (monoplegia, hemiplegia, diplegia, or paraplegia).

Talk to Bakersfield Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Mickey Fine

Bakersfield spinal injury lawyer Mickey Fine has decades of experience helping California residents recover just compensation for accident-related and work-related injuries. If you’ve been injured and would like to learn about your legal rights, please call 661-333-3333 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.

Spinal Cord Injury
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on