A spinal cord injury — damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) — often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.

The lowest part of the spinal cord that remains undamaged after an injury is referred to as the neurological level of injury. The severity of the injury is often called “the completeness” and is classified as either of the following:

  • Complete – If all feeling (sensory) and all ability to control movement (motor function) are lost below the spinal cord injury, the injury is called complete.
  • Incomplete – If there is some motor or sensory function below the affected area, the injury is called incomplete. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury.

Additionally, paralysis from a spinal cord injury can be referred to as:

  • Tetraplegia – Also known as quadriplegia, means that the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the spinal cord injury.
  • Paraplegia – This paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs.