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Recognizing a spinal cord injury in an emergency

Injuries can occur in any industry, but some California workers face higher risk based on their job duties. For instance, the risk of falling and suffering a spinal cord injury may not be as high in an office job as it would on a construction site.

Even so, under the right circumstances, anyone could suffer from this potentially permanent and debilitating injury. If you or a co-worker were hurt in an accident, would you recognize the signs of a spinal cord injury?

In the minutes following the accident

It can be difficult to maintain focus during an emergency, but with some prior knowledge, you could take the appropriate action to determine whether a spinal cord injury could have occurred. The following symptoms and signs often appear in the immediate aftermath of an accident:

  • It may seem obvious, but look for signs of extreme pain in the neck, back or head.
  • Another sign to look for is tingling, numbness or loss of feeling in the hands, fingers, toes or feet.
  • Look for signs of paralysis, lack of coordination or weakness in any part of the body.
  • Check for difficulties in breathing.
  • If walking or balancing is difficult, it could signal a spinal cord injury.
  • An oddly positioned back or neck could also indicate a serious injury to the spine.
  • Any loss of bladder or bowel control may seem like a natural reaction to the accident, but it can also indicate a spinal cord injury.

If you are the victim and recognize any of these symptoms and signs, don't move. Stay as still as possible until help arrives. Co-workers may attempt to move you to try to make you more comfortable. Don't let them. Wait until emergency medical personnel arrive, and let them assess you and move you in a way that should minimize any impact to your spine that could make your injury worse.

If doctors diagnose you with a spinal cord injury, you could not return to work for some time and require substantial medical care. The last thing you need is the stress of wondering how to pay for your medical and other needs, along with how you will support yourself and your family during this time. Workers' compensation benefits could cover these and other approved expenses, but obtaining those benefits without assistance could become problematic.

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