The Aftermath of C8 Spinal Cord Injury: Outcomes and Recovery

c8 spinal cord injury

Wondering how your life will change after a C8 spinal cord injury?

Depending on the severity of your injury, you might be surprised to find that you have a lot more control than you thought.

This article will go over what a C8 spinal cord injury entails and how to recover.

C8 Spinal Cord Injury Outcomes

A C8 spinal cord injury is characterized by weakness of the hands and otherwise normal upper extremity functions.

C8 is the last segment of the cervical spinal cord. There is no C8 vertebra, so the nerve root exits in between the C7 and T1 vertebrae.

The muscles innervated by the C8 nerve roots are responsible for the bending of the fingers. This affects your ability to grip and pick up objects.

The C8 dermatome (area of innervated skin) is tested at the pinky finger.

In the case of a complete C8 spinal cord injury, you won’t be able to move or feel anything in your trunk or lower body.

However, most spinal cord injuries are incomplete and people may be able to feel or control areas below their level of injury.

A C8 spinal cord injury can affect:

  • Balance. Paralysis at the trunk will compromise overall balance. You might be unable to sit up in your wheelchair for long periods or may fall over easily when reaching.
  • Autonomic  Nervous System Functions. The autonomic nervous system helps regulate involuntary bodily functions like sweating, digestion, and heart rate.
  • Bladder and Bowel Movements. Inability to control the contracting and relaxing of your sphincters can make you very accident-prone. Depending on the severity of your SCI, you may not be able to feel when your bladder is full.
  • Muscle and Bone Mass. Think ‘use it or lose it.’ Physical inactivity will result in reduced muscle and bone mass. This increases your likelihood of bone fractures, reduces circulation, and slows down your metabolic rate.

Independence After C8 Spinal Cord Injury

man in wheelchair exercising arms after c8 spinal cord injury

C8 spinal cord injury patients are capable of being very independent because they have normal head, neck, shoulder, elbow, and wrist movements.

They should be able to perform the following daily actions on their own:

  • operating a manual wheelchair
  • transferring in and out of their wheelchairs
  • eating
  • grooming
  • dressing
  • adapted driving
  • bathing with a transfer bench

C8 Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Even amongst C8 spinal cord injury patients, recovery can be completely different.

The severity of injury plays a huge role in how little or how much function is preserved.

Recovery after a C8 spinal cord injury will mainly consist of physical and occupational therapy.

Both will assess the amount of functional control you have at and below your level of injury and then create a personalized recovery plan.

Physical therapy focuses on developing gross motor skills (larger movements like walking) through exercise.

Occupational therapy develops your fine motor skills (small, precise movements like writing) by focusing on activities of daily living.

Hand Therapy at Home

using musicglove for hand function recovery after c8 sci

The key to spinal cord injury recovery is activating neuroplasticity; and the best way to activate neuroplasticity is to repeat, repeat, and repeat!

The primary recovery goal after a C8 spinal cord injury is to strengthen weak hand functions.

Repetition can get tedious and boring, so we highly recommend trying out products like MusicGlove.

It makes hand rehabilitation fun and engaging so that performing repetitions doesn’t seem like such a chore.

This game specifically focuses on promoting finger flexions, which makes it perfect for C8 spinal cord injury patients!

It challenges you to make O’s with your fingers in sync to music.

Because there’s such a wide variety of songs and many levels of difficulty, you’ll always be challenged and motivated to perform the repetitions you need.

Life After C8 Spinal Cord Injury

Life after a C8 spinal cord injury can definitely be overwhelming because it requires you to become much more dependent on your arms.

Out of all cervical spinal cord injuries, a C8 SCI will result in the least motor impairment.

Apart from weakness in your hands, you’ll have completely normal arm functions.

So even though you have paralysis in the trunk and legs, your arms will allow you to have some independence.

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand what to expect after C8 spinal cord injury. Good luck!