What is a C5/C6 Injury?

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Car crashes are major threats to spine health. Even in the most minor crashes, many drivers can suffer whiplash in the C5-C6 vertebrae, which causes pain and limited neck movements for extended periods of time. Meanwhile, major car crashes can cause injury to the entire spine, leaving drivers to suffer from a lifetime of paralysis or even a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Catastrophic injuries like this require strong legal representation from Shreveport-Bossier City personal injury attorney Michael J. Vergis. 

Mr. Vergis and his team have more than 20 years of experience in litigating brain and back injury cases. When you choose him, you can rest assured knowing that you will receive appropriate compensation for your pain and suffering. Call 318-618-8129 to schedule a free consultation today.

Where Are C5 and C6?

C5 and C6 are two vertebrae in the lower section of the cervical spinal canal. In other words, the C5 and C6 are two of seven bones in your neck and upper back. The cervical spine is one of three spinal column sections, the others being the thoracic spine and the lumbar spine. 

C5 and C6 aren’t just bones. They’re also made up of intervertebral discs, a vertebral body, a vertebral arch, two vertebral processes, and multiple nerve roots. Dozens of tendons and muscles surround the cervical spine as well. All of these parts of the neck and cervical spine work together to provide full function and smooth movements.

C5 Vertebra

Just like every other bone, nerve, tendon, and muscle in the body, the C5 vertebra serves a specific purpose in the cervical spine. This vertebra:

  • Supports the head
  • Allows the head to move up, down, and side to side
  • Protects the spinal cord

Spinal cord injuries that occur above this vertebra may have deadly consequences, as there are numerous nerves between C3 and C5 that control breathing. Additionally, an injury above C5 may result in quadriplegia, which is basically paralyzation from the neck down, including all four extremities. 

C6 Vertebra

The C6 vertebra also aids in skull support, head movement, and spinal cord protection. C6 and the vertebrae below it are home to nerves that provide motor function and sensation to the arms and legs. So if someone suffers an injury below C6, they may suffer complete paralysis of the legs and lower abdomen (also known as paraplegia).

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What Nerves Are Affected by C5/C6?

The spinal column is full of nerves that control almost every muscle and function in the human body. That’s why nerve damage of any kind can result in lifelong pain and disability.

There are 31 pairs of nerve roots in the spinal column, but the cervical spine is home to eight pairs. In other words, one nerve exits each side of the cervical spinal column. These eight pairs of nerves control movement and organ function in the upper body. As you move further down the central nervous system (CNS), you will find that many of the other nerve roots control lower body movement and functions. Nerve roots exit through the intervertebral foramen.

The nerve roots exiting C5 primarily control the deltoid and bicep muscles. Meanwhile, the C6 nerve roots assist with movement and sensation in the biceps as well. C6 nerves also control thumb and wrist extensor muscles. 

What Causes a C5/C6 Injury?

A car accident is possibly the most common cause of a C5-C6 disc or vertebrae injury. In even the most minor crashes, drivers can suffer from whiplash, which primarily injures the cervical spine due to the forceful whipping motion of the head. Other common causes of C5-C6 disc or vertebral injuries include general wear and tear, slipping and falling, sports injuries, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, violent assaults, and even poor posture.

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Bulging Disc in Neck C5/C6

The C5-C6 discs are frequently affected by forward head posture. This type of posture looks just how it sounds: slouching and sticking the head too far forward. Forward head posture is especially common among those with desk jobs. Spending multiple hours a day with this kind of posture can result in C5-C6 disc herniation or general neck pain later in life.

C5/C6 Herniated Disc Symptoms

The most common symptoms of herniated discs are pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling in various parts of the body, depending on which disc is damaged. As previously explained, those experiencing C5-C6 disc herniation will likely experience these symptoms down their arms. Meanwhile, those experiencing pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling in their lower body likely have a bulging disc in their thoracic or lumbar spine.

Herniated discs most commonly occur in people between the ages of 30 and 50, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Other risk factors for disc problems and disc pain include:

  • Smoking
  • General aging
  • Sitting for long periods of time without changing position
  • Having a high BMI
  • Sports and jobs that require lots of repetitive twisting, bending, or lifting

The symptoms most commonly associated with cervical disc herniation also fall under the umbrella of a medical term called cervical radiculopathy. So, if you’re experiencing any of those symptoms – especially after an accident – you should seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.

Common Types of Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries

Disc herniation isn’t the only type of cervical spinal cord injury that someone can suffer from. Other cervical spinal injuries include:

  • Cervical Spondylosis: Also known as cervical osteoarthritis. Cervical spondylosis is basically the degeneration of the spinal vertebrae and discs. Any set of discs can suffer from this condition, including the C5-C6 discs. The most common symptom of spondylosis is pain, but some people don’t have symptoms at all. In some cases, spondylosis can lead to bone spur formation on the vertebrae, which can cause the spinal canal to narrow (spinal stenosis).
  • C5 and C6 Vertebrae Fracture: According to a 2011 study, approximately 20% of vertebra fractures occur at C6, while approximately 15% of vertebra fractures occur at C5. Vertebral fractures are generally caused by physical trauma, such as whiplash from a car accident.
  • Cervical Scoliosis: Cervical scoliosis is the excess curving in the cervical section of the spine. It’s normal for everyone to have a slight cervical curve in order to support the head. But too much curving in the cervical spine can cause lifelong pain, limited range of motion, and a tilted head position. Treating scoliosis involves a combination of surgery and spinal braces. 

Any C5-C6 disc injury has the potential to cause adverse spinal tension, which can ultimately change the natural cervical curve.

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How are C5/C6 Disc Injuries Treated?

Before any doctor begins treating damage to the intervertebral discs or spinal column, they must perform a physical exam and order diagnostic image testing, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Depending on the severity of the patient’s accident or the symptoms they’re presenting, a doctor may order neurological testing as well.

Non Surgical C5-C6 Disc Treatment

Because the most common symptom of C5 and C6 injuries is pain, many doctors will begin treatment by prescribing pain killers such as NSAIDs, opioids, steroids, tramadol, etc. If the doctor suspects that vertebrae or disc degeneration is the underlying cause of the patient’s symptoms, they may also prescribe bone-strengthening supplements such as Vitamin D and calcium.

Traditional physical therapy, or manual therapy, involves therapeutic stretching and exercising in order to manage spinal cord pain, improve range of motion in the neck, and strengthen the neck. If you’re recovering from a cervical spinal cord injury such as whiplash, your physical therapist may recommend a temporary neck brace to assist healing before you begin your exercises.

Steroid injections are also a common treatment option for herniated discs and whiplash. If you choose this course of treatment, your doctor will either inject the steroids into the facet joints or the neuroforamen of the cervical spine. Steroids are known to reduce the inflammation associated with a bulging disc, therefore taking the pressure off surrounding nerves that may be pinched and causing pain.

Surgical C5-C6 Disc Treatment

There are many surgical procedures that can fix a cervical spinal cord injury, including:

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Spinal Fusion: A surgeon will replace the C5-C6 disc with a bone graft during this surgery, which will basically fuse the two vertebrae together. The result is less pressure on the pinched nerves and spinal cord, and therefore, less pain.
  • Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement: This surgery is similar to the last one in that a surgeon will replace a degenerated cervical disc with an artificial one. Once the patient heals, they will experience far less neck pain and far more range of motion.
  • Posterior Cervical Decompression: This involves removing only part of a bulging disc through an incision in the back of the neck.
  • Laminectomy: The goal of this procedure is to take pressure off the spinal cord by removing part of the C5 or C6 vertebral arch in the patient’s body, depending on which vertebra is causing issues. 
  • Foraminotomy: The goal of this procedure is to take pressure off the nerves in the spinal cord by removing the extra bone in the intervertebral foramen.

Lamnoforaminotomy: This surgery is basically a laminectomy and a foraminotomy happening at the same time in order to relieve pinched cervical spinal nerves.

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Why Do I Need a Lawyer for a C5/C6 Injury?

The first thing people do when they start experiencing arm numbness or weakness is call a doctor. But if these symptoms began after a major physical trauma, such as a car crash that wasn’t your fault, you should call a personal injury lawyer, too. Medical care for any condition is expensive, but it’s even worse when you have to pay for injuries that resulted from someone else’s negligence.

Michael J. Vergis is an experienced personal injury and criminal defense attorney in Bossier City, LA. He has successfully litigated numerous spinal cord injury cases so that when his clients do receive treatment for their neck injuries, they have the compensation to pay for it. C5-C6 spinal injuries can lead to a lifetime of pain and medical debt. Let the person who caused your injury pay for it.

Call Bossier City Personal Injury Lawyer Michael J. Vergis Today

If you’re suffering from a C5-C6 spinal injury – or even a traumatic brain injury (TBI) – after a major accident, call Attorney at Law Michael J. Vergis today. For over 20 years, Michael J. Vergis has fought for injured clients from all over Louisiana as a top notch personal injury attorney. He will make sure that you can pay for the medical treatment you need to live the most pain free life possible. Call 318-618-8129 to schedule a free consultation right away.