Injuries to the cervical spinal nerves, located in the neck, can be life changing. Spinal cord injuries impact the area below the injury, which means that your entire body except for your head can be affected by an injury to this area of the spinal cord.
The higher the level of spinal cord injury, the greater the impact on the body. It is imperative for you to be realistic, yet optimistic, about what types of challenges you might face as a result of your injuries.
Cervical spinal cord injuries can result in quadriplegia. This means that both legs and arms are affected by the injury. Higher level injuries can result in a complete paralysis of the limbs.
Injuries that are lower on the cervical spine, typically at the C5 to C8 level, can still result in quadriplegia, but there might be some function in the arms. For example, injuries at the C5 level may allow the injured person to bend their elbows and raise the arms.
Breathing and communication
People who have injuries from the C1 to C4 area might be dependent on a ventilator. They may be unable to cough or breathe without assistance. Weakened breathing is usually present in C5 and C6 injuries but the injured person might not be dependent on a ventilator.
The breathing challenges can make it difficult to speak. Some people might need to rely on other forms of communication. This might include special equipment and training.
Personal care challenges
People who have an injury from C1 to C5 will likely require personal care assistance. In fact, those with C1 to C4 injuries are usually fully dependent on others for care.
At the C5 level, the need for assistance may be lessened, but there are still some areas of life that they will need help with. Sometimes, people who have C6 (and below) injuries are able to drive vehicles if they are equipped with assistive devices.
Bladder and bowel control may not be present after cervical spinal injuries. Some individuals might be able to take care of themselves with the help of special equipment.
The cost of care after a spinal cord accident is great. An injured person's inability to work after an accident of this magnitude can pose profound financial challenges. For this reason, individuals who were injured in an accident like a car crash or fall might need to pursue compensation from the liable party.