Tag Archives: crippling injuries

This may seem a silly question, but I can’t find my answer through online searches. When someone breaks their back (spinal cord broken), will they still be able to scream? Pain-wise, what does someone feel, if anything? My character is healed with magic, but between the time his back is broken and he’s healed is what I’m having problems with figuring out…. I’d prefer this be answered privately, but if you feel this may help someone else, I don’t mind it being publicly answered.

This is actually going to need to be public, because, I’m not a doctor, so there’s a higher chance of me screwing up the medical questions, which means having someone who’s more familiar with the subject checking our work is a bonus.

In general we don’t do private answers beyond a paragraph or two, simply because if the information has the potential of being useful to more than just the person writing the ask. Especially with stuff like this, where it’s not just you.

Also, again, the major disclaimer is, damage to the nervous system is a little more advanced than any of the actual first aid training I got in Scouts.

The basic idea is your nervous system is the means your brain has for relaying information and instruction to your body and back. When you damage it, the information just stops going (both ways). You can no longer instruct parts of your body to function, and they can’t feed back any sensory information. All of this kind of “flows downstream,” so, if you sever the spinal column, everything past that is just gone.

This manifests as numbness, rather than specific pain. This is where the, “I can’t feel my legs/arms/whatever” cliche actually applies. Nerves can get nicked, I knew someone that had a nerve in his arm damaged by an Emerald Tree Boa. The resulting injury left him with a numb patch in the center of his palm.

The brain can interpret no nerve data as painful. However, this tends to happen with phantom limb syndrome, rather than just nerve damage. If you can actually look at the affected area, and confirm that no, nothing’s gone horribly wrong, then the pain dissipates.

But, again, this one’s a little outside my area of expertise, so I could be wrong here.


One of my characters is a high ranking officer in her army who primarily uses melee weapons, and has one of her arms cut off. How would this affect her during battle and daily life?

How would having their arms cut off affect their ability to fight? Yeah, you kind of need those. Without them, you really can’t. I’m sure there’s a few exceptions out there, like the one armed MMA fighter, who’s name is escaping me at the moment. But, cutting off her arms is going to be the end of her military career. She’ll be packed up and shipped home to a hospital, and her combat days will be over.

Obviously, if this is a science fiction setting, and we’re talking about cybernetic augmentation to replace the lost limbs, that’s not going to apply. The same is true if it’s a high magic fantasy setting where she can have living arms of wood grafted onto her, or whatever. But, any historical setting, and even modern day, that’s not an option.

In daily life? You can look at actual amputees, and see how they function. I know I’ve seen a couple pretty good documentaries on the subject over the years, but I can’t identify any off hand. If that’s not an option, just take a day and be very conscious of everything you do with your arms and hands. Then realize your character probably can’t do any of them without prosthetics. That means no opening doors, no feeding themselves, nothing.

Prosthetics make that a little easier, and there are some people out there who can do fantastic things with theirs. Which could, with time and practice, allow her to feed herself, open doors, and operate in civilian life to some extent. But, how does this affect her ability to fight? She can’t.

Also, you’re not going to have a military officer that uses melee weapons. That just doesn’t happen, for basically the same reason you won’t find a bayonet charge on a modern battlefield. People have guns, and it turns out, you can use guns to kill people at slightly longer than arm’s reach. Meaning your “high ranking” whatever won’t be wading into battle and belting out, “drive me closer, I want to hit them with my sword!”

Also, high ranking personnel don’t actually see combat, if they can help it. If you’ve proved yourself valuable enough to be promoted, there are far more expendable soldiers available to take your place in the fray.

Someone in a command position may be technically replaceable, but, their loss would be disproportionally disruptive to any ongoing conflict. There’s a lot of truth to the whole “cut off the head and the snake dies” cliche when it comes to crippling a large military force. Without someone to tell the grunts where to go or what to do, they’re just so many tons of meat. And, that’s what rank ultimately means. It’s an indication of how far up the chain of command your character is.

Unless they’re in something like the Imperium of Man’s Astra Militarum, you’re not going to see someone waving swords around on the battlefield, and you’re not going to see high ranking officers wading into combat. They have a job to do, and it doesn’t involve getting waxed by the first enemy sniper they can find.


@kalany, So, turns out, I did misread the question. Mea culpa, for what little that’s worth. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really change much about the answer. If their character is still engaged in front line combat, they’re going to need both arms to function. You can’t just lop one off and call it cool.

You need two functioning limbs (not counting legs) to fight something with two functioning limbs (again, not counting legs). You need two functioning limbs to operate a rifle. You can’t one hand them. You need two functioning limbs to reload any firearm. And, of course, saying, “but I wanted to hit them with a sword,” just isn’t a valid tactic in the 21st century.

Now, if their character was already a flag officer (an Admiral or General), who wasn’t involved in combat… just forget that whole melee thing, then wandering around with one arm isn’t unprecedented. There are examples like Lord Nelson, who continued belting out orders after he’d lost his arm, and I think his eye. But, as I said above, these are people telling others where to fight, not doing it personally. After all, the art of command is delegation, not demonstration.


I was wondering what sort of difficulties someone would face in fighting (hand to hand/wrestling or with, say, a sword) if they lost one of their arms as well as an eye. I have a character who relied on his brute strength but ends up losing an arm and most of the sight in his dominant eye. Would he be able to correct for this eventually? What sort of things could he keep in mind, etc? Thanks!

Well… they’d go into shock and die. So, there is that.

I’ll say this again. Fighting is not about brute strength; It’s about finesse. This is especially true of sword combat. Loosing an arm is just going to seriously mess with that. If he was using an epee or rapier, and was trained as in some variation of Italian school fencing, he might be able to adjust.

If he lost his dominant arm, I’m inclined to say no. You can learn to compensate for the loss of a limb in day to day life (even if you don’t have access to prosthetic replacements). But, you’ll probably be unable to ever get to a point where you’d actually be effective in combat again. (And I say this while fully aware of Götz von Berlichingen.)

The eye isn’t as serious an issue, especially if it still works. His peripheral vision would be impaired. If he’s effectively blind in one eye, you’re not going to want him trying to shoot things, but it’s not a career ending injury.