Around 15 million people worldwide are living with a spinal cord injury. A majority of these injuries are caused by some type of trauma.

While the initial shock and medical challenges are significant, the long-term effects of spinal cord damage deserve just as much attention. Understanding these long-term effects can empower you as you navigate your recovery journey and potential legal claims with the help of a spine injury attorney.

This article will be your guide as we explore the realities of living with a catastrophic spinal cord injury.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury happens when damage stops the spinal cord from sending messages between the brain and body. The severity of a spinal cord injury determines the long-term effects and challenges a victim may face.

Some of the symptoms of a spinal cord injury include the following:

  • Loss of sensation or movement in the body below the level of injury
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from the lungs
  • Changes in sexual function and fertility
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Muscle spasms and weakness
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Chronic pain and discomfort

Types of Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury becomes catastrophic when it results in severe, life-altering consequences for the individual. Catastrophic injuries often lead to permanent damage that impacts the person’s ability to function. These injuries can result in partial or total paralysis, affecting mobility, sensation, and bodily functions.

Catastrophic spinal cord injuries typically require extensive medical interventions, long-term rehabilitation, and ongoing care to manage the associated complications effectively.

There are two types of spinal cord injuries, and depending on the severity, both could be considered catastrophic.


An incomplete spinal cord injury partially damages the spinal cord, letting some signals pass through. This type of injury may result in impaired movement, sensation, or function below the site of trauma.

Individuals with an incomplete, damaged spinal cord may experience challenges like weakness or numbness in specific body parts. Recovery can vary significantly based on the location and severity of the incomplete injury.


A complete spinal cord injury is when there is a total loss of sensation and movement below the level of the injury. This type of injury often results in paralysis, impacting both motor and sensory functions. Individuals with a complete spinal cord injury may experience challenges with daily activities like walking, using their hands, or even controlling bodily functions.

The effects of a complete spinal cord injury require significant adjustments to adapt to new limitations. Rehabilitation efforts focus on maximizing independence and improving the quality of life.

Long-Term Effects of a Catastrophic Spinal Cord Injury

Catastrophic spinal cord injuries leave a lasting impact. They can alter a person’s physical abilities and overall well-being.


Spinal cord injuries often result in paralysis, affecting mobility and sensory functions. Due to nerve damage, simple tasks like walking or using your hands may become challenging or impossible.

The impact goes beyond just loss of movement. Individuals may also experience chronic pain, muscle spasms, and decreased bladder and bowel control.

Spinal cord damage can also lead to secondary health issues. This could include the following and more:

  • Pressure ulcers
  • Respiratory problems
  • Increased risk of infections

The physical toll of a catastrophic spinal injury is lifelong and requires comprehensive medical care and rehabilitation efforts.


Loss of mobility and independence can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and frustration. Coping with the emotional toll of a spinal cord injury is a long-term process that requires support from mental health professionals, family, and friends.

Adjusting to life post-injury may involve navigating complex emotions. This can include grief for the life once lived, anger at the circumstances, and acceptance of the new reality.


Medical bills, adaptive equipment, and ongoing therapy costs can quickly add up, creating a heavy burden. Managing these financial challenges may require making difficult decisions about treatment options, equipment purchases, and long-term care arrangements.

Social Relationships

The sudden change in physical abilities may lead to feelings of isolation from friends and loved ones. Simple activities that once brought joy, like attending gatherings or going out, may become challenging.


The physical limitations resulting from spinal injuries may make it challenging to perform job duties that were once manageable. Simple tasks like sitting for extended periods or using fine motor skills can become a challenge.

New employment opportunities may be limited, leading to financial strain. Adjusting to a new employment reality post-injury often requires support and guidance from professionals.

When to Find Help From a Spine Injury Attorney

There are multiple circumstances where you may want to contact an attorney. We’ll discuss just a few big ones.

Significant Medical Expenses

If you have a spine injury, it is likely that you may face significant medical expenses. This may include hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, and ongoing rehabilitation. If your spine injury was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you might be entitled to compensation for these expenses.

Long-Term Disability or Loss of Income

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be unable to return to work or perform the same job duties as before. This can result in a significant financial burden for you and your family. An attorney can help calculate the financial impact of your injury and seek compensation for lost wages or future earning potential.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Some insurance companies may try to minimize payouts or deny claims altogether. If you are dealing with an insurance company after a spine injury, having an attorney on your side is your best option. They can handle all communication and negotiations with the insurance company and help to protect your rights.

Find the Help You Need from Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello

If you’ve experienced a spine injury, an attorney can make all the difference. They’ll advocate for you so you can focus on healing.

Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello have been fighting for the people of Louisiana for over 50 years. We provide the patient, kind, and caring support you need. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.