While any musculoskeletal condition may require medical attention, certain injuries demand immediate action. One of the most serious back and spinal injuries is a cervical fracture. If a cervical fracture is suspected, you may be dealing with a broken neck!
Victims of falls and motor vehicle accidents are more at risk for cervical fractures because such injuries result from high-energy trauma or activities requiring extreme force. Critical fractures are caused by sudden, severe twists or blows to the head or neck, such as those common in violent, contact sports (football, rugby, ice hockey, or wrestling). Consequentially, divers, gymnasts, skiers, surfers, weight lifters, horseback riders, and mountain bikers are also likely candidates for a cervical fracture.
If you suspect a cervical fracture has occurred, you need to quickly contact the spine specialists and medical professionals at The Spine Center.
The Severity of a Cervical Fracture
A cervical fracture is a serious injury and can take a devastating toll on your body. The neck contains seven bones, known as the cervical vertebrae, which support the head and also connect the head to the shoulders and the rest of the body. If a fracture occurs in any portion of the cervical vertebrae, this often results in major damage because a cervical fracture can cause dangerous and degenerative spine problems. The spinal cord, which runs through the vertebrae’s center, is crucial to the central nervous system. It transports information throughout the body, enabling movement and other essential functions. Risk factors for a cervical fracture include loss of sensation, temporary or permanent paralysis from the neck down, and even death.
Handling a Cervical Fracture Emergency
Patients with a cervical fracture who remain conscious may experience severe neck pain as the damaged vertebrae cause pinched nerves. These pinched nerves shoot pain through the body to the shoulders or arms and often cause bruising, swelling, and pain at the back of the neck. Persons with cervical fractures may even become paralyzed from these spine problems.
Given the risk associated with cervical fractures, if you suspect a cervical fracture has occurred it is critical you remain calm and contact a medical professional as soon as possible. Typically when emergency personnel suspect that a neck injury has occurred they recommend immobilizing a patient’s neck. A physician then performs a neurological examination to determine nerve function, orders x-rays, and may perform additional radiographic studies, such as an MRI or computed tomography (CT).