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What should you know about cervical spinal cord injuries?

According to Shepherd Center, the cervical spine is within the neck and consists of the C-1 through C-7 vertebrae. Because of the proximity to the head and brain, these injuries are usually more severe than other types of spinal cord damage.

Understanding cervical spine injuries is crucial if you or a loved one is currently facing recovery. Here are a few important points to keep in mind.

How are these injuries diagnosed?

Imaging procedures can detect physical damage within multiple areas of the spine. Doctors also use physical examinations to determine the patient’s level of strength and sensation within the limbs. Doctors may also utilize other types of diagnostic testing, depending on the nature of the injuries.

What effects do they cause?

It typically depends on where the damage takes place. Damage to the C-1 to C-4 nerves can cause paralysis in the extremities, problems breathing, an inability to speak, the need for assistive devices, such as wheelchairs. These injuries are often the most severe. Damage to the C-5 through C-8 nerves is less severe, but it can also cause effects like issues with bowel and bladder control, wrist extension, and grip strength.

What is the outlook for people with cervical spine injuries?

Whether a patient achieves a full or partial recovery depends on the severity of the injuries. Medical staff will provide physical and occupational therapy to help patients restore strength and function. If a patient requires an assistive device, the patient may receive training on how to use it correctly. Medication is also used to reduce pain and swelling. Some people require assistance for the rest of their lives, while others are able to live independently.