Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in the country. While you may associate this type of injury with paralysis, SCIs can cause a variety of other symptoms. Some of these symptoms may initially seem minor, while other symptoms may not even appear right away.

Misconceptions about this life-altering injury can lead to severe consequences, especially if you do not seek appropriate treatment right away. It may be wise schedule a medical examination after any traffic collision to avoid potentially making an injury worse. It may also be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the less-obvious symptoms you may experience if you receive a SCI.

Why do some symptoms show up later?

A SCI occurs when the spinal cord itself is damaged. However, it can also occur when vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column become damaged.

After the initial injury, additional damage can still occur. This usually takes place over the days or weeks following the initial injury as bleeding, swelling and inflammation occur around the spinal cord.

If an injury is initially minor, you may not notice symptoms until the injury becomes more severe. Adrenalin and endorphins released during the crash could also prevent you from initially noticing an injury.

What signs may indicate a SCI?

The spinal cord helps carry messages from the brain to other parts of the body. When it is damaged, the brain may have difficulty sending messages to and receiving messages from body parts below the injury site. The symptoms that someone with a SCI may experience will depend on the severity of the injury. Not everyone with a SCI has complete loss of sensation or movement below their injury site.

Some signs other than paralysis that may indicate a SCI include:

· An altered ability to feel hot, cold or touch

· Loss of bladder or bowel control

· Spasms

· Difficulty breathing

· Pressure in the neck, head or back

· Difficulty with balance

What should I do if I think I may have a SCI?

If you are involved in a collision and immediately realize that you could have a SCI, you should try to remain calm and still. Movement could make your injury worse. If possible, ask someone to call 911 on your behalf and request an ambulance.

Even if you do not immediately notice symptoms, it still may be best to schedule a medical examination. Seeing a doctor right away after a collision can help identify and treat any possible injury before it gets worse. It can also establish a record of your condition right after the collision. However, you should visit a doctor any time you experience symptoms after a collision, even if the symptoms did not appear until later and you did not initially visit a doctor.

Recovering from a SCI can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Depending on the severity of your injury, your whole life could change. However, if you did not cause your injury, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with your injury.