The term ‘spinal cord injury’ refers to damage to the spinal cord resulting from trauma (e.g. a car crash) or from disease or degeneration (e.g. cancer). There is no reliable estimate of global prevalence, but estimated annual global incidence is 40 to 80 cases per million population. Up to 90% of these cases are due to traumatic causes, though the proportion of non-traumatic spinal cord injury appears to be growing.

Symptoms of spinal cord injury depend on the severity of injury and its location on the spinal cord. Symptoms may include partial or complete loss of sensory function or motor control of arms, legs and/or body. The most severe spinal cord injury affects the systems that regulate bowel or bladder control, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. Most people with spinal cord injury experience chronic pain.