Spinal Cord Injury Levels - Functionality of C5 Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Injury Level Sections

C1 - C3 : C4 : C5 : C6 : C7 - C8 : T1 - T4 : T5 - T9 : T10 - L1 : L2 - S5

Mobility & Movement

Someone with a C5 spinal cord injury would have full head and neck movement with good muscle strength. Shoulder muscles of the deltoids are usually good and biceps function is preserved allowing elbow flexion. In the arms triceps function, wrist extensors/flexors and finger function is lost. Function of the muscles in the torso and trunk as well as the legs are lost.

Sympathetic nervous system will be compromised, possibility of autonomic dysreflexia.

An electric wheelchair can be controlled with a hand control for uneven surfaces. A manual wheelchair may be used for short distances on flat surfaces. Some C5 tetraplegics may have enough strength to use a manual wheelchair with power assisted wheels such as the Alber Emotion wheels.

The person will require total assistance when transferring from a bed to a wheelchair and from a wheelchair into a car. A hoist will have to be used, possibly by one to two assistants for safety.

Ability to feed self using feeding strap and fork or spoon during mealtimes. Food will need cutting.

Ability to drive a car adapted with hand controls. Assistance may be required to load wheelchair into car independently.

Respiratory System

Able to breathe without a ventilator using diaphragm. Low stamina.

Assistance required to clear secretions and assistance in coughing will be required.

Personal Care

Complete personal assistance is required. The person will need assistance with washing, dressing, and assistance with bowel and bladder management.

Ability to shave and brush hair may be possible with palm straps.

Domestic Care

Complete domestic care is required, such as household cleaning, washing of clothes and kitchen duties, preparation of meals and general household duties.


A computer may be operated using a typing stick or voice recognition. Telephone can be used using voice recognition and headset.

The above functionality guide is only a general guide. Abilities will vary depending on the persons weight, existing medical conditions and age.