Because the spinal cord is the Grand Central Station of the nervous system, injuring it can be terrifying. Each section of the spine controls a different part of your body, meaning an injury to any section could leave you partially paralyzed. While paralysis is often associated with legs and arms, it could also mean your urinary tract or respiratory system is unable to function properly.
The likelihood of paralysis is highest in “complete” injuries. This means signals from the nerves are not received past the point of the injury. For neck injuries, that could result in tetraplegia, meaning you are unable to move your arms or legs. A lower injury could result in paraplegia, meaning the legs are paralyzed. These often result from a lack of blood flow or other obstruction that kills the nerves.
An incomplete injury, on the other hand, means the injury does not totally block nerve signals. While these injuries can result in paralysis, it is often able to be overcome with rehabilitation and medical treatment. Things get tricky with “open” injuries, such as from a gunshot. The bullet may not immediately cause paralysis, but operation to remove it could damage nerves. Often in these cases, the bullet may be left in, while the patient is forced to be immobile so the spine can heal around it.