C6, C7, & C8 Spinal Injuries

C7 spinal cord injury and other injuries to the lower cervical vertebrae/nerves can result in paralysis and other health complications.

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What Are the C6, C7, and C8 Vertebrae/Nerves Called?

The C6 vertebra is also known as the sixth cervical vertebra. Following C6, the C7 vertebra is both referred to as the seventh cervical vertebrae and as the vertebra prominens. The vertebra prominens is the last bone in the cervical spinal column group.  Since it is not a vertebrae, C8 is also labeled as the cervical spinal nerve 8.

C6, C7, & C8 Anatomy

The C6 vertebra is found in the inferior end of the neck, just above the thorax. A bony arch, known as the vertebral arch, wraps around the vertebra to provide attachment for muscles. The C7 is the most inferior vertebra, as well as the largest, in the neck area.

Between the C6 and C7 vertebrae are intervertebral disks, which are thin cushions of fibrocartilage for shock absorption and alignment. The C7 has similar anatomical characteristics to C6, except the C7 vertebra is superior to the first thoracic vertebra (T1) and earns the name vertebra prominens from it being visible and felt at the base of the neck.

Unlike C6 and C7, C8 is not a vertebrae, but is a cervical spinal nerve instead. 

cervical spine c6 c7 c8 spinal cord injury

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Treatment for C6, C7, & C8 Injuries

Treatment for these types of spinal cord injury are aimed at retaining as much function as possible while regaining lost function. Several therapy options may be tried to aid in spinal cord damage recovery.

  • Physical therapy is a very important part of recovery. The patient will need to maintain any function not lost by the cord damage, as well as try to regain function. For instance, C7 and C6 spinal cord injury exercises may help speed up recovery. 
  • Surgery is done to stabilize the area around the spinal cord damage. The nerves around the damage are decompressed in hopes of relieving some of the symptoms. Fusion is then achieved by fixing the areas in and around the spinal cord damage.
  • Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs are implemented to aid in recovering as much motor and / or sensory function as possible by reducing the inflammation in the area of cord damage.

Mental therapy for a C8 injury and vertebrae damage is also a very important part of treating a spinal cord injury patient. The therapist can help the patient deal with the emotional side of recovery.

C6, C7, and C8 Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Spinal cord injuries to the C6, C7, and C8 levels that are treated immediately have the best chance for recovery. Patients will typically know the extent of the long-term damage within six months of the injury. Learning to deal with the limitations of the injury is a very important part of the recovery phase. Keeping a positive attitude can aid the patient in pushing through surgeries and therapies. 

Sources: 

  • Cervical Spinal Cord Injury, Shepherd Center, Learn More 
  • Levine, Julie, All about the C6-C7 Spinal Motion Segment, Spine-Health, Learn More
  • Epidural Stimulation Brings New Hope to C6-C7 Spinal Cord Injury Patient Jonathan from Ireland, Epidural Stimulation Now, Learn More
  • Acute Spinal Cord Injury, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Learn More