The Four Levels of Spinal Cord Injury

Posted On August 29, 2023 / By Manning Law / Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most complex and severe injuries that can be suffered in accidents in Denver. When any part of the spinal cord sustains injury, the effects and symptoms can be devastating for a victim. Spinal cord injuries can result in permanent paralysis, for example, or the irreversible loss of feeling and function below the point of injury. Our experienced Denver spinal cord injury lawyers share the differences between the four levels of spinal cord injury according to the location of the damage.


The spinal cord is made up of 33 vertebrae, or individual bones that link together to form the spinal column, of which only the top 24 are moveable. These vertebrae are divided into five major regions, four of which are part of the spine and the fifth (the coccyx) being the tailbone. The uppermost portion of the spine is referred to as the cervical spinal cord. It contains the seven vertebrae in the neck: C1-C7. 

If the cervical spine gets injured, the victim’s body could be affected from the neck downward. This makes cervical spine damage the most severe type of spinal cord injury. If a victim suffers an injury to the C1-C4 vertebrae in the neck, he or she may be fully paralyzed in all four limbs and the trunk of the body. This condition is known as quadriplegia. It may require the victim to be placed on a ventilator to breathe, as well as result in a loss of bladder and bowel control. 


The next portion further down on the spinal cord is the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine makes up the upper and middle part of the back. It is composed of 12 vertebrae (T1-T12), making it the largest region. The possible effects of a thoracic spine injury will depend on the area impacted:

  • T1-T5: injuries to these vertebrae affect the upper chest to mid-back area. This can include the chest muscles, abdominal muscles, and nerves and muscles that control the lungs and diaphragm.
  • T6-T12: injuries to these vertebrae affect the abdominal and back muscles. These muscles and nerves are responsible for balance, posture and expelling foreign matter from the airways.

Damage to the thoracic spine can result in weakness or a loss of sensation in the surrounding muscles, loss of bowel and bladder control, back pain, and sexual dysfunction. It can also result in paraplegia, or paralysis from the waist down.


Beneath the thoracic spine is the lumbar region (L1-L5) of the spine. These five vertebrae are the lowest major portion of the spine. They are responsible for bearing most of the weight of the rest of the spinal cord. Injuries to the lumbar region can result in a loss of feeling or function in the hips and legs, including bowel and bladder incontinence. Depending on the severity of the damage, lumbar spinal cord injuries can cause complete paraplegia or the ability to walk with braces.


The bottommost portion of the spinal column is the sacral spine (S1-S5). It sits above the coccyx. These five vertebrae are fused together to make up the sacrum, which is shaped like a triangle. Injuries to different vertebrae within the sacral spine can have different effects on the victim. The S1 nerves affect the groin, S2 affect the backs of the thighs, S3 affect the medial buttocks and S4 affect the perineal area. Injuries to the sacral spine often result in changes to bladder, bowel and sex organ control. They can also result in some loss of function in the hips and legs.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with any type or level of spine injury in Denver, Colorado, contact the Denver personal injury lawyers at Manning Law for a free case consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation for this serious type of injury.