Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury can result in paralysis of the muscles used for breathing; paralysis and/or loss of feeling in all or some of the trunk, arms, and legs; weakness; numbness; loss of bowel and bladder control; and numerous secondary conditions including respiratory problems, pressure sores, and sometimes fatal spikes in blood pressure.

There are approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injuries in the United States each year. Vehicle crashes are currently the leading cause of injury, followed by falls, acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), and sports/recreation activities.

Spinal Cord Disease

There are many different disorders of the spinal cord, below are a few common ones:

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. One or two out of 100,000 people develop ALS each year.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a chronic, progressive, degenerative disorder that affects nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. MS symptoms often worsen, improve, and develop in different areas of the body. Early symptoms of the disorder may include vision changes (blurred vision, blind spots) and muscle weakness. MS affects about 500,000 people in the U.S.


Polio—also known as poliomyelitis—is a contagious viral disease that attacks the central nervous system and can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and weakness. While the disease has been virtually conquered in many areas of the world through vaccines, some survivors of childhood polio have been experiencing a new syndrome called “post-polio” that typically emerges 25 to 30 years after the initial attack. Post-polio occurs in approximately 25–50 percent of people who survive a poliomyelitis infection.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect. In the developing vertebrate nervous system, the neural tube is the precursor of the central nervous system. Neural tube defects result from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. Worldwide incidence of spina bifida is 1–2 cases per 1,000 births, but certain populations have a significantly greater risk.