Spinal cord injuries or SCI’s can be complete or incomplete.
A complete SCI is like completely cutting the telephone cable in a building. No phone calls can go from the main office to the individual offices or go from the individual offices to the main office.
In a complete SCI, nerve damage stops all messages from passing through your spinal cord where the injury occurred. The terms complete and incomplete describe the function of your spinal cord, not the physical damage to it. Just as if a cable only appears to be partially damaged, but it does not work at all it is described as not working.
An incomplete SCI is like fraying the telephone cable in a building. The main office can sometimes receive or make phone calls to the individual offices, but they are unpredictable and have static. The amount and type of messages that can pass between your brain and other parts of your body will depend on how many nerves are not damaged. Incomplete SCI’s are unique because different nerve fibers can be damaged in each person’s spinal cord. Some people with an incomplete SCI may have a lot of feeling but little movement and others may have a lot of movement but little feeling.
After a SCI the spinal cord may only be bruised or swollen. When the swelling of the spinal cord goes down, the nerves may begin to work again, and some complete SCI’s become incomplete SCI’s. Depending on the person’s SCI, this recovery maybe rapid or slow. It is impossible to accurately predict how much of a person’s sensory or motor function will return and at what speed.