Recognizing a Spinal Cord Injury

EMS immobilizing patientEmergency signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury after an accident may include:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
  • Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body
  • Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty with balance and walking
  • Impaired breathing after injury
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back

If you suspect that someone has a back or neck injury:

  • DO NOT move the injured person — permanent paralysis and other serious complications may result. Any slight movement may cause further paralysis.
  • Call 911
  • Keep the person still
  • Place heavy towels on both sides of the neck or hold the head and neck to prevent them from moving until emergency care arrives. Any slight movement of their neck may cause further damage or paralysis.
  • Provide basic first aid, such as stopping any bleeding and making the person comfortable, without moving the head or neck