• News
  • Health
    • Injury
    • Trauma

Can Quadriplegics Breathe On Their Own?


You might have heard about quadriplegia, the paralysis of all four limbs. This disease is quite severe, and living with it is quite difficult. And the most adverse effect of this disease is on breathing so can quadriplegics breathe on their own or not?

Let's learn first about quadriplegia.


Quadriplegia is the medical term for paralysis affecting the trunk, legs, and arms from the neck down. The disorder is frequently brought on by damage to the spinal cord, which houses the nerves that carry commands for movement and feeling from the brain to various parts of the body.

A quadriplegic patient with a breathing device on hospital bed
A quadriplegic patient with a breathing device on hospital bed

COPYRIGHT_SPINE: Published on https://spinal-injury.net/can-quadriplegics-breathe-on-their-own/ by Dr. Bill Butcher on 2022-09-28T04:10:07.484Z

Now, back to the main question: can quadriplegics breathe on their own?

Breathing And Quadriplegia

Most people's breathing comes naturally to them. Despite being crucial to your survival, you rarely give it much thought.

The respiratory muscles, however, are paralyzed in people with quadriplegia, making it impossible for them to breathe on their own without the aid of a machine.

The paralysis of all four limbs or the complete body below the neck is referred to as quadriplegia (or tetraplegia). Most of the time, it is caused by a spinal cord injury (SCI) in the C1-C7 vertebrae, which are part of the cervical spine.

Over 200,000 people in the United States alone are currently living with a spinal cord injury, with 46% sustaining the injury as a result of a car accident.

All respiratory muscles are paralyzed in people with SCIs C-4 and higher because the nerves that regulate those muscles are situated in the upper neck.

People who have suffered injuries to this region of the spine could need breathing support, which is typically given right away by a mechanical ventilator.

The requirement for breathing assistance is one of the main problems that quadriplegics face. Most injuries below the C5 vertebrae don't make it hard to breathe, but injuries to the C4 vertebrae often require help with breathing.

The ability to breathe on one's own is impossible for those who have C1 or C2 injuries. Positive pressure ventilation has typically been used by mechanical ventilators to do this, but other options are also available.

There are some other concerns regarding quadriplegics.

Can Quadriplegics Walk Again?

Fortunately, many SCI survivors (including quadriplegics) can do so. Because the spinal cord has the ability to restructure itself and produce adaptive changes known as neuroplasticity, it is possible to walk again after SCI.

Can Quadriplegics Feel Pain?

Although quadriplegics may not feel exterior sensations, they may experience pain in their arms, legs, back, and other places that do not respond to external stimuli. Pain drugs recommended by their doctor can help them feel better.

Lung Strengthening - Exercises | Quadriplegic (C5,C6,C7)

Can Quadriplegics Poop?

Yes, they can, but quadriplegia causes some other gastrointestinal issues. You may experience difficulties transporting waste through your colon (or large intestine). You may have to pass a stool when you don't want to, or the stool may be difficult to pass. These issues might cause abdominal pain.

People Also Ask

How Do Quadriplegic People Breathe?

A special pacemaker is used to imitate the nerves of the diaphragm. This lets the quadriplegia patient breathe without a ventilator.

Do Quadriplegics Have To Be On A Ventilator?

One of the most pressing difficulties for those with quadriplegia is the requirement for breathing assistance so they need to be on a ventilator.

How Does Quadriplegia Affect The Respiratory System?

Those suffering from quadriplegia have paralyzed respiratory muscles, rendering them unable to breathe on their own without medical aid.


The most precise answer to the question can quadriplegics breathe on their own is "No". They need special assistance, it could be some devices specially designed for them or they need to be on a ventilator.

Share: Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

About The Authors

Dr. Bill Butcher

Dr. Bill Butcher - With more than two decades of experience, Dr. Bill Butcher aims to provide a repository for educational materials, sources of information, details of forthcoming events, and original articles related to the medical field and about health subjects that matter to you. His goal is to help make your life better, to help you find your way when faced with healthcare decisions, and to help you feel better about your health and that of your family.Bill received his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and spent his entire career helping people find the health and medical information, support, and services they need. His mission is to help millions of people feel fantastic by restoring them to optimal health.

Recent Articles

No articles found.