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How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Brain?

How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Brain

If you need an experienced neurologist after an accident or trauma, call (800) 897-8440 today.

Spinal injuries are some of the most traumatic accidents that can happen to your body. These incidents can cause blood pressure, bowel control, and sensory function issues. However, many spinal trauma patients neglect to confront the neurological trauma that usually accompanies these injuries.

So how does a spinal cord injury affect the brain? Understanding the adverse impacts of a spinal cord injury on your brain demonstrates the importance of finding a neurologist in NYC to help you recover from that trauma. 

According to the United Spinal Association, over 17,700 spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. annually. Therefore, knowing practitioners within your network who can provide care is essential. Injured Call Today’s directory of medical professionals can help you find the care you need. 

Factors Affecting the Impacts of a Spinal Cord Injury

The range of spinal trauma adversities depends on various factors. Read below about the different factors affecting the severity of spinal cord injuries. 

Injury Location

The location of spinal trauma is crucial to determining its negative impacts and neurological effects. While there may be neurological adversities from any form of spinal trauma, generally speaking, the higher the injury, the worse the effects. Most patients lose some or all sensations and motor functions in the parts of their body below the injury.

Severity and Completeness

Experts qualify spinal trauma by rating its severity and evaluating the “completeness” of the injury. Complete spinal injuries indicate trauma that eliminates motor functions and feeling in every body part below the injury. These injuries cause paralysis in part of all of the body and might relegate patients to a wheelchair for the rest of their life.

An incomplete injury might only cause partial sensation and motor function loss below a spinal injury. Although this is an improvement from complete injuries, it may not be possible to recover from this spinal trauma.

Negative Impacts of Spinal Cord Trauma on the Brain

Since spinal injuries qualify as severe trauma, these accidents can negatively impact the brain. Read below about the various negative impacts spinal cord trauma can have on the brain.

Co-Occurring Brain Trauma

A spinal injury from a car accident is the most common. However, 60% of people who suffer spinal cord trauma also experience a traumatic head injury. 

The common co-occurrence with brain injuries complicates spinal cord injury recovery. Additionally, spinal trauma that happens without head trauma may develop into brain injuries later.

Development of Hypotension

Another consequence of the changes to nervous system function from spinal trauma includes changes to blood pressure. Since the brain’s ability to regulate blood flow might change after traumatic alterations to your spine, it’s common for patients to develop hypotension or abnormally low blood flow.

Sensation Loss

Primary nerve frameworks that control motor and sensory functions center in the spinal cord. These injuries may cause sensation loss and numbness in certain limbs and appendages. Alterations to the body’s nerve receptors cause additional issues with nerve function, sensation loss, and other neurological complications.

Increased Inflammation in the Brain

As the body attempts to cope with spinal trauma, the brain may also experience swelling. The connection between the spinal cord and the base of the brain could confuse your immune system attempting to heal your injury.

Chronic Pain

BJA Education estimates that about 70% of spinal cord injury patients will have chronic pain, with 30% experiencing severe chronic pain. For many victims of car accidents and other traumatic events, this may be one of the worst adversities from these injuries. Additionally, many patients experience this chronic pain as headaches, offering more evidence for the connection between spinal and head trauma.


Patients with spinal trauma may experience involuntary movements from different limbs, known as spasticity. This condition results from alterations to the body’s ability to receive neurological and nerve signals. Disruptions in these spinal-based pathways make spasticity common among spinal cord trauma patients.

Mental Health Challenges

According to the World Health Organization, about 20% to 30% of patients with major spinal trauma exhibit significant signs of depression soon after their accidents. There are both physiological and lifestyle reasons for these changes.

Many patients with traumatic spinal injuries experience significantly limited mobility and lifelong limitations. Depression might result from restrictions and changes to a patient’s lifestyle. However, the physiological impacts of spinal trauma on the brain could also increase a person’s propensity to develop mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

FAQs About Spinal Cord Injuries and Brain Impact

If you’re still asking, “How does a spinal cord injury affect the brain?” read these frequently asked questions about the relationship between spinal cord injuries and their negative effects on the brain.

Can a Spinal Injury Affect Brain Function?

Yes, spinal injuries can significantly affect brain function. Depending on the location and severity of your spinal cord injury, you could experience negative impacts on bodily functions ranging from bladder control to sexual function. Visiting a neurologist after a car accident trauma might not cure your injury but can relieve symptoms.

What Organs Does Spinal Cord Injury Affect?

Spinal cord injuries can negatively impact many different organs. The most common organs that experience adversities after spinal trauma include the brain, lungs, bladder, and muscular system.

Does Spinal Cord Injury Affect Memory?

Among the various neurological impacts of spinal cord injuries, memory may experience a significant decline. Other brain functions like focus, balance and mental wellness might also have adversities caused by spinal trauma.

Find Board Certified Neurologists Through Injured Call Today

Find Board Certified Neurologists

Doctors in our directory accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). Same-day appointments may be available.

Are you still wondering, “How does a spinal cord injury affect the brain?” Call (800) 897-8440 to find a doctor from Injured Call Today’s directory who can help heal a spinal injury from a car accident.

Addressing spinal cord injuries requires medical professionals who can handle their complexities. Let us help you find the care you need to start on the path to recovery.