Spinal Cord Injury Levels - Functionality of C6 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 C6 spinal cord injury would have full head and neck movement with good muscle strength. Full shoulder strength of the deltoid muscles and biceps strength would be preserved, along with wrist extensors initiating the ability to grasp light objects with the use of a passive thumb adduction on the index finger during active wrist extension. This type of grip initiated from the wrist extensor is referred to as a "tenodisis grip". A tenodisis grip can be further strengthened by use of a wrist orthosis or support. A tenodisis grip is sometimes also referred to as a "key grip".

In the arms elbow extension initiated from the triceps is lost, along with active finger function. The upper torso has loss of pectoral, abdominal and back muscles. The lower limbs encounter the loss of muscle function.

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

An electric wheelchair can be controlled with a joystick control for uneven outdoor surfaces. A manual wheelchair may be used for short distances on flat surfaces, or outdoors with the use of power assist wheels.

A person with C6 tetraplegia would require full assistance when transferring from floor to chair. Assistance will vary for transfer from bed to wheelchair, and wheelchair to car. A sliding board may be used in assisting with the transfer

Ability to feed self using feeding strap and fork or spoon during mealtimes. Food will need cutting. Able to make hot drinks with adapted kettle using a "kettle tipper".

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 may be required. Additional coughing techniques can be applied to assist in coughing by leaning forward whilst exhaling.

Personal Care

Personal assistance is required. The person will need assistance with washing, dressing, and assistance with bowel and bladder management. Ability to empty own leg bag will depend on dexterity and strength.

Ability to partially dress upper body, however, assistance may be required to dress lower body.

Ability to shave, brush hair and brush teeth is possible with palm straps.

Domestic Care

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

Ability with adapted equipment to prepare simple meals and simple 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.