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Abilities After Injury

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Your abilities after you're injured depend on the level of injury.

T2 or lower (Paraplegia)


  • The connection between the brain and the legs

C1 to C7 and T1 (Tetraplegia/Quadriplegia)


  • The cervical or neck area
  • Both arm and leg functions

C4 level and above (C1, C2, and C3)


  • The motor signals that control the diaphragm (the muscle that makes the lungs expand when you breathe in)
  • Your ability to breathe on your own and may require a mechanical ventilator to help you breathe

The extent of the injury also changes from person to person. It depends on which parts of the spinal cord are injured and how badly the cord was injured.

  • Some people can move their arms, but cannot feel light touch or pinpricks.
  • Othfer people have sensation, but no movement.
  • Others may have no sensation and no movement.

Complete and Incomplete Injuries

There are complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries.

Complete Injury

  • Interrupts the connections between the brain and the end of the spinal cord.
  • Recovery of sensation and movement is not very likely.

Incomplete Injury

  • Some nerve connections remain between the brain and the end of the spinal cord.
  • Chances for recovery are better than in a person with a complete injury.

Expert Care for a Brighter Outlook on Living

If you've had a stroke, transplant, or severe injury, inpatient physical rehab can help you restore function.

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers expert inpatient and transitional rehab care for a range of health concerns, including:

We can start your rehab while you're still in the hospital.

Read more on UPMC HealthBeat

Check out the blog post Incomplete Vs. Complete Spinal Cord Injury on UPMC HealthBeat to learn even more about spinal cord injuries!