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Depending on level of spinal cord injury, there are various degrees abilities and functional goals. Functional levels of spinal injuries are better the lower the level of the spinal cord injury.
Below, Chicago Back Injury Attorney Cullotta summarizes the typical abilities and corresponding functional goals based on the level of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Abilities with a C1-C3 spinal cord injury (SCI) is typically limited movement of head and neck. C1-C3 cord injury people depend on a ventilator for breathing. Talking is sometimes difficult, very limited, or impossible with a C1-C3 level injury to spinal cord. When the ability to talk is not 100 percent, then the person may use a mouth stick or other assistive technology to speak or type.
Being able to speak allows the individual with a SCI at C1-C3 to direct caregivers about their daily activities. For example, the person bathing, dressing, personal hygiene, transferring and bladder and bowel management. Using assistive technology to perform daily tasks allows for more independence, for instance, turning pages when reading a book or using a telephone, lights and appliances.
A person with this level of injury can operate an electric wheelchair by using a head control, mouth stick, or chin control. They can also power tilt their wheelchair for independent pressure relief.
Functional abilities at C3- C4 spinal injuries means a person usually can control their head and neck. Individuals with a C4 level injury may also be shrug their shoulders. A person with a C3-4 injury may initially require a ventilator. They can perform daily tasks using specialized equipment. Some spinal cord injury at C3-4 persons may have limited independence in feeding themselves and or operating an adjustable bed with an adapted controller.
An individual with a level C5 injury to spinal cord typically has head and neck control, can shrug shoulder and has shoulder control. Can bend his/her elbows and turn palm. After help with the setup of such special equipment, this SCI person can eat, drink, wash their face, brush their teeth, shave, and do hair care. With this level of injury, a person can manage their own health care by doing self-assist coughs and pressure reliefs by leaning forward or side-to-side. They also may have enough strength to push a manual wheelchair for short distances over smooth surfaces. A power wheelchair with hand controls is for daily activities.
A person with the C6 level spinal cord injury has movement in head, neck, shoulders, arms and wrists. The person can also shrug shoulders, bend elbows, turn palms up and down and their extend wrists. With the help of special equipment, a person with a C6 spinal injury can do daily tasks with greater ease and independence. For example, a C6 level injury individual may independently perform light housekeeping duties, feed, bath groom and dress themselves. They can also independently perform pressure relief, skin checks and bed turn by themselves. Mobility with a C6 injury for some individuals can include ability to transfer using a sliding board. This individual can also use a manual wheelchair for daily activities but may need a power wheelchair for greater ease of independence.
Has similar movement as an individual with C6 level injury, In addition, a person with a C7 injury can also straighten their elbows, perform household duties, daily tasks and live independently. Mobility is by use of a manual wheelchair. The person can also transfer to and from a wheelchair without help
Individuals with a C8-T1 spinal cord injury have added strength and precision of fingers permitting limited or natural hand function. The person with a C8-T1 level injury can live independently. For example, a person with a C8-T1 level injury can feed, bath, groom, dress, shave, and dress themselves. Mobility with a C8-T1 injury includes use of a manual wheelchair and independent transfer to and from a wheelchair.
With a spinal cord injury at level T2-T6, the person still has a normal motor function in their head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. The person also has increased use of rib and chest muscles.
Also, a person with a level T2-T6 level spinal cord injury can perform all of their daily task activities without help. A few individuals with a T2-T6 level SCI are capable of limited walking using extensive bracing. However, this requires high energy and puts stress on the upper body and can lead to damage of upper joints.
A T7-T12 level injury maintains their motor function and seat activities.
Has a return of motor movement in their hips and knees. Their walking can be a viable function, with the help of specialized leg and ankle braces. Individuals with lower level injuries can walk with greater ease using assistive devices.
There are various degrees of return of voluntary bladder, bowel and sexual functions with a level S1-S5 spinal injury. They also have an increasing ability to walk with fewer or no supportive devices.