When people are in accidents that result in injures to the spinal cord, the primary concern is if they will regain the ability to walk at some future point. In most cases, progress made during the first month after the injury is a good predictor of your future abilities.
Approximately one-third of spinal cord injury patients will one day again be able to walk. For those who do not regain their abilities, most do improve somewhat.
Spinal cord injuries are known as “complete” and “incomplete.” Complete injuries cause more extensive damage, and there is a lack of movement and sensation for the patient beneath the injury level. This usually results in fecal incontinence.
During the first post-accident year, some improvement may occur close to the affected area. A neck injury could allow some future shoulder and upper arm movement, for instance. There should be no further deterioration, however, so it is important to communicate immediately with your doctor if you lose either strength or sensation.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries allow some signals to transmit to and from the brain, so there will at least be limited feeling and/or movement below the injury level. Most incomplete spinal injuries do not result in incontinence.
Improvements below the injury level are far more common in incomplete spinal injuries. The biggest factor in recovering sensation and motion is strenuous rehabilitation in the aftermath of the accident. After the initial trauma phase, spinal cord injury patients usually transition to an in-hospital rehabilitation unit for intensive therapies. Eventually, these therapies can be continued on an out-patient basis.
As one can imagine, none of this highly specialized treatment comes cheap, so it might be necessary to file a lawsuit against the one responsible for the accident that caused the spinal cord injuries.
Source: Hamilton Health Sciences, “Rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury,” accessed April 08, 2016