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Any workplace in New Hampshire poses safety risks. However, those who work in construction, logging or commercial transport face occupational hazards that can cause catastrophic injuries that are life-changing. One example is a spinal cord injury, which will require an extended period in a hospital, followed by long-term rehabilitation.

Gaining knowledge about spinal cord injuries may motivate you to take particular precautions to prevent circumstances in which you might be a victim of such an injury. Keep in mind that there is no cure for spinal cord damage.

What and where is the spinal cord?

The spinal cord serves as a messenger between your brain and your body. It consists of a bundle of tissue, mainly nerves, which runs in a column down your spine with the vertebrae protecting it. It stretches from the base of your brain to your lower back from where the nerves branch out to your legs. When you suffer severe trauma to your spine, an acute spinal cord injury can occur. If this happens, you can lose sensation and movement below the point of damage.

Types of spinal cord injuries

Workplace accidents such as falls or vehicle accidents can cause spinal cord injuries – typically classified as complete or incomplete. When you suffer a complete spinal cord injury, both sides of your body – below the point of damage – will lose sensation and movement. If it is incomplete, it will affect one side of your body more than the other side. You might be unable to move or feel the limbs on one side of your body, while the other side is normal.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may not appear immediately. If bleeding or swelling pressurizes the spinal cord, symptoms may develop over time, varying by location and severity. The higher up the damage, the more comprehensive the disability may be. You could experience digestive problems and muscle spasms, and your blood pressure and heart rate might change. If the damage was to your upper spine, you might have trouble breathing, and lower spine damage can cause bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction.

Paralysis or muscle weakness in the arms, legs or trunk

The severity of the injury will determine the level of paralysis you suffer. The following classifications indicate the different conditions:

  • Paraparesis and Quadriparesis: This indicates the partial function loss in only two or all four of your limbs respectively.
  • Quadriplegia: Spinal cord injuries in the upper area of the neck can cause the loss of sensation and movement in both your arms and both your legs.
  • Paraplegia: If the damage occurred in the lower spine, the paralysis would disable both your legs.
  • Triplegia: Sometimes, an incomplete spinal cord injury causes paralysis in both legs and only one arm.

What if this happens to you?

If you ever suffer such a catastrophic workplace accident, you will need all the support you can get. Although the New Hampshire workers’ compensation insurance system covers injured workers, you will need much more than the typical coverage of medical expenses and lost income. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can look out for your best interests and work to get you all the long-term benefits to which you are entitled.