A cervical spine injury affects the top part of the spine, from the base of the skull to the upper back. The neck has seven cervical vertebrae, known as C1 through C7.
If a cervical injury affects the spinal cord, the results are often devastating. Because of its location so high on the spine, a spinal cord injury in the cervical region may result in little to no feeling or movement below the point of injury, known as quadriplegia or tetraplegia.
The Effects of a Cervical Spine Injury Depend on Location
C1 through C4 are the top vertebrae closest to the skull. An injury in this area may lead to paralysis in all four limbs if the injury affects the spinal cord. Some people with injuries to the upper cervical spine can breathe on their own while others cannot.
Patients who suffer an injury to the C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae may breathe on their own and may have limited movement of their arms, hands, and wrists. That person will also experience paralysis of the lower limbs, trunk, and may lose bladder and bowel control.
Common Causes of Cervical Spine Injuries
Cervical spine injuries, including fractures and dislocations, can happen in many ways. Compression fractures related to osteoporosis or other diseases that weaken the bones may respond to conservative treatment and generally do not endanger the spinal cord.
Other causes of these cervical vertebrae and spine injuries include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Violent acts
- Football and other contact sports
- Diving accidents
Treating a Cervical Spine Injury
Treatment of a cervical spine injury centers on stabilizing the area and reducing swelling to prevent further damage. Patients with a broken neck cannot begin the recovery process until their doctors can ensure the neck is stable.
In some cases, stabilizing the spinal column requires surgery and utilizes metal rods, plates, and pins. Doctors may remove shattered pieces of bone and even build a cage to protect the area. Doctors may also prescribe steroids and pain relief medication to help with the pain
Recovery generally focuses on stabilizing the injuries and allowing them to heal. Neck braces are common for cervical spine injuries. Some people need to wear a metal halo to prevent them from turning their head at all.
Rehabilitation and Ongoing Care for Patients with a Cervical Spine Injury
In general, the injuries and paralysis associated with damage to the cervical spinal cord are permanent. Still, the doctor may recommend inpatient rehabilitation followed by outpatient therapies to help patients regain as many skills as possible and relearn how to do perform daily care tasks to recover as much independence as possible.
Many people who suffer cervical spine injuries recover fully when there was no spinal nerve involvement. In cases where there was spinal cord damage, many people can return — with the help of modern technology — to some level of independence. Some patients may require help with some self-care tasks, while others require around-the-clock care.
Many people with injuries to their spine at the cervical level can use and control specially adapted powered wheelchairs depending on their abilities. Some are even able to drive a vehicle equipped with adaptive controls.
Pursuing Compensation for a Cervical Spine Injury
If you or a loved one suffered a cervical spine injury in a car wreck or fall accident, or due to medical malpractice or a defective product, the team from Newsome | Melton will evaluate your case and help you pursue damages. You may qualify to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
We can fight for an out-of-court settlement or litigate your case if necessary. Call us at (800) 917-5888 to get started today.