Wondering how much a C3 spinal cord injury can change your life?
This article will go over everything you need to know about C3 spinal cord injuries so that you’re better prepared for your recovery journey.
What to Expect with a C3 Spinal Cord Injury
A C3 spinal cord injury can be life-threatening if not given immediate medical attention.
It’s one of the most dangerous spinal cord injuries because it occurs so high up the spinal cord, meaning that it affects a large portion of the body.
Here are 6 major outcomes you can expect after a C3 spinal cord injury.
1. Breathing Difficulties
The main reason why a C3 spinal cord injury is so critical is that from the C3 nerve to the C5 nerve are the neurons that innervate the diaphragm (the phrenic nerve).
Damage to your C3 spinal cord can impair diaphragm function and without immediate medical attention, can be fatal due to inability to breathe.
2. Paralysis from the Neck Down
A C3 spinal cord injury will result in quadriplegia, which is paralysis in your arms, trunk, and legs.
If you have an incomplete spinal cord injury (which most people do), you may be able to move or recover various parts of your body from the neck down.
This is because incomplete spinal cord injuries indicate that not all connections between the brain and body are cut off.
With enough physical therapy and repetition, you can strengthen existing connections and some functions may return.
3. Muscle Atrophy
An inevitable consequence of paralysis from the neck down reduced physical activity.
When you don’t move enough, your muscle mass decreases from disuse.
This is called muscle atrophy, and it can severely harm your health in the long run.
Consequences of extreme muscle atrophy include reduced circulation, decelerated metabolic rate, weight loss, and increased risk of falls and fractures.
The best way to prevent muscle atrophy is to move as much as possible. Even passive range of motion exercise (when someone manually moves your body for you) can help stimulate the muscles.
4. Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction
When you can’t move your hands, torso, or legs, you most likely won’t be able to control your bowel and bladder muscles.
In occupational therapy, you’ll learn effective bladder and bowel management techniques to prevent accidents.
Management for bowel and bladder dysfunction may include catheterization, bladder augmentation surgery, and medications.
5. Complete Caregiver Assistance
Living with quadriplegia will make you much more dependent on others to carry out daily tasks like bathing, eating, and toileting.
C3 spinal cord injury patients will most likely need 24-hour caregiver assistance.
6. Neck and Head Movements
When it comes to spinal cord injury, it’s probably easier to think in terms of what you can do vs. what you can’t do.
The C3 spinal cord is only the third out of 31 segments of the spinal cord. This means that only 2 segments of the spinal cord will not be affected by the injury at all.
The C1 and C2 segments of the spinal cord generally control the muscles that allow you to nod your head up and down as well as sensations at the upper neck and head.
The C3 spinal nerves are responsible for neck side flexion, which is the ability to tilt your neck to the side.
Generally, people with C3 spinal cord injuries will be able to speak and move most of their head and neck.
C3 Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
Recovery happens at a different pace for everybody. Don’t feel discouraged if your recovery isn’t happening as quickly as you hoped.
It’s possible to recover years after your injury, so continue to stay motivated and work hard in rehabilitation.
If you or someone you love has a C3 spinal cord injury, don’t jump to conclusions.
Spinal cord injuries can range in severity so even if you have a C3 spinal cord injury, it might be mild and you may only be slightly affected.
If you don’t have a complete spinal cord injury, there still are parts of the spinal cord that connect your brain to your body.
You may be able to recover various functions below your site of injury through consistent and intensive physical therapy.
There currently is no cure for spinal cord injury, but the best way to recover motor control is to move what you can as often as you can.
It will strengthen the neural circuitries in your spinal cord and promote neuroplasticity.
Need some more hope? Check out this video of a C3 spinal cord injury patient’s recovery!
Hopefully, this article helped you better understand the effects of a C3 spinal cord injury.
To find out more about spinal cord injury near the neck, check out our article on cervical spinal cord injury.