Even though C4 is in the same network as the vertebrae at the top of your spine that ties in to your diaphragm, this particular vertebrae has some integral tie-ins to our everyday lives. C4 is centrally located in the same neighborhood in the cervical/neck area of your spine. It’s placed just above the thoracic vertebrae. From C1 to C4 is an area of the spine comprised of the high cervical nerves. This specific vertebrae works to control upward shoulder movements and along with C3 and C5, it helps to power your diaphragm (muscle sheet that stretches to the rib cage for breathing). The C4 dermatome blankets parts of the shoulders, neck, and arms (upper part).
Dermatome is an area of skin that is primarily supplied by a single spinal nerve; interestingly, every spinal nerve transmits sensations from a specific area of the skin to your brain. While much depends on the severity, an injury here can cause a patient to be unable to breathe on their own, cough, and can even cause loss of control with your bladder or bowel movements. The ability to speak also has the potential to be impeded and/or drastically reduced. The term for all four limbs being affected by this is called tetraplegia or quadriplegia.
Exactly what can happen with a pinched C4 nerve? It might be a sharp pain that could travel down to your foot and be possibly made worse by sitting or coughing; there could also be numbness or weakness in your leg or foot. Injuries and complications here could include paralysis in the hands, arms, torso and legs. Many patients might ask can I walk after a C4 injury? There is great potential to be able to walk again after a SCI here (Spinal Cord Injury) as your spine has the innate ability to restructure itself and bring about adaptable changes (called neuroplasticity). Seeing our chiropractic team for a highly effective and organized rehab plan that the patient consistently follows can make all the difference towards optimal recovery!