This week on our “Learn about your spine” series we focus on the C4 and C5 vertebrae. These vertebrae are part of the cervical spine and sit at the base of your neck. Injuries pertaining to this part of the spine are usually characterized by respiratory difficulties, trouble controlling the bladder, weak muscles and even paralysis in one or several parts of the body.

Read on to find out how spinal cord injury affects children and what you can do about it.

children riding scooter

The C4 and C5 Vertebrae
Some of the motor functions associated with these vertebrae include:
– Controlling the mouth through the facial muscles
– Ability to breathe
– Moving and controlling the head
– Moving the neck from side to side and up and down

laughing children
laughing children

Common Symptoms of CS and C5 Damage
If you notice one or a combination of the following symptoms in your child, they may be suffering from spinal cord injury:
– Muscle weakness:
Your child may have difficulty lifting the shoulders or bending their elbows. That’s because C4 nerve damage weakens the rhomboid, trapezius, deltoid, bicep, and scapulae muscles. This disrupts motor function.
– Weak breathing:
Nerves emanating from the C4 and C5 vertebrae support the diaphragm, a muscle that contributes to our breathing ability. Severe damage to these nerves can cause breathing difficulties.
– Pain or numbness in the arms and shoulders:
The C4 and C5 nerves receive sensory signals from the dermatome, which includes the shoulder, shoulder blade, collarbone and the uppermost part of the arm. Whenever there’s pain or a “pins and needles” sensation in these parts of the body, it usually points to damage in the C4 and C5 vertebrae.

crying child
crying child

Other symptoms include:
– Limited range of motion
– Loss of diaphragm function
– Difficulty controlling bladder and bowel movement
– Paralysis in torso, legs, wrists, and/ or hands

Causes of C4 and C5 Damage in Children

The above symptoms usually occur in children that experience physical development issues as a result of:
– A car accident
– Slipping and falling from a height
– A sports injury from doing gymnastics, playing rugby, wrestling and other types of contact sports
Birth defects are another major cause of C4 and C nerve damage in children. It can go unnoticed until the child reaches a school-going age. 

painful ache
painful ache

Children are predisposed to C4 and C5 injuries because unlike adults, their anatomic features aren’t yet fully developed. For instance, they have a different head-to-size ratio and reduced elasticity in their spinal ligaments capsules.


Damage to the C4 and C5 vertebrae is irreversible, but you can take measures to prevent further damage and make the most of the remaining function.

The most common forms of treatment for spinal cord injury that affects the C4 and C5 vertebrae include spinal fusion. This helps to expand the nerves around the spinal cord to facilitate a speedy recovery.

In the long term, it’s worth looking into sustainable rehabilitation through methods such as Manual Therapy. This is a great way to gradually heal spinal cord injury in children and can help to improve your little one’s quality of life.

healthy child
healthy child

Manual Therapy: How it Works

Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment modality that includes certain movements and stretching exercises to facilitate motion. It’s aimed at helping patients to manage the pain and improve overall health and wellness.

Unlike conventional physiotherapy, manual therapy is aimed at aligning the spine from different positions and performing soft tissue and spinal massage.

Good news! Philani Natural Health is offering free assessments for a limited time only. This usually costs R390 and is a part of your overall treatment. Book today and only pay for the treatment- your assessment is on the house.