Head injury or other traumatic injury such as severe chest trauma, pelvis or femur fractures
Pain, which may or may not be severe
Swelling and bruising
Decreased feeling in the arms or legs
Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred, and will examine the injured area.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones. It is used to look for a break in the bone or a dislocation of the vertebra.
—a test that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to make pictures of structures inside the neck and back. An MRI provides cross-sectional images that allow the doctor to see if there is damage to the spinal cord.
—a type of x-ray that uses computers to make pictures of structures inside the neck and back. It can be used to analyze bone injury and to see if the spinal cord is compressed by a collection of blood.
Treatment depends on:
The severity of the fracture
If there is an associated dislocation or instability
Which cervical bones are broken
Whether there is spinal cord or nerve injury, with muscle weakness or paralysis
When there is a possibility of a broken neck, complete immobilization of the neck area is necessary. For athletes, it is recommended to keep the helmet and shoulder pads on while immobilizing the spine.
Brace or Collar
A less serious neck fracture can be treated with a cervical brace or collar. It will need to be worn until the neck completely heals, usually 8 to 12 weeks. The doctor may recommend medications to reduce pain and swelling.
For a more severe fracture, you may need surgery to realign the bones. Your neck may be placed in traction prior to surgery. A metal plate with screws, or other methods of fixation, may be used to help hold the bones in place.
When your doctor decides you are ready, start
and strengthening exercises. A physical therapist should assist you with these exercises. Talk with your doctor before returning to any type of physical activity, and about lifting restrictions and other precautions.
You may need to wear a neck splint, spinal brace, or surgical collar for many months. The period of rehabilitation can last many months and even years.
Living With Paralysis
A neck fracture can sometimes result in spinal cord and nerve injury and paralysis. This may require major life changes, involving work, family, and social life. Extensive rehabilitation may be required, including physical and occupational therapy, and psychological support.
To help prevent a neck fracture:
Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the cervical bones.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a