Definition

What is cervical fracture?

The seven bones in the neck are the cervical vertebrae. They support the head and connect it to the shoulders and body. A fracture, or break, in one of the cervical vertebrae is commonly called a broken neck.

Any injury to the vertebrae can have serious consequences because the spinal cord, the central nervous system’s connection between the brain and the body, runs through the center of the vertebrae. Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis or death. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down.

How common is cervical fracture?

Cervical fracture is common, especially in athletes. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of cervical fracture?

The primary symptoms of a broken neck bone typically include neck pain. This can be associated with neurological symptoms or weakness if the nerves are compromised. Severe caution should be maintained as there may be other injuries to the spine or other parts of the body along with a neck fracture.

When should I see my doctor?

In a trauma situation, the neck should be immobilized until x-rays are taken and reviewed by a physician. Emergency medical personnel will assume that an unconscious individual has a neck injury and respond accordingly. The victim may experience shock and either temporary or permanent paralysis.

Causes

What causes cervical fracture?

Cervical fractures usually result from high-energy trauma, such as automobile crashes or falls. A cervical fracture can occur if:

  • A football player “spears” an opponent with his head.
  • An ice hockey player is struck from behind and rams into the boards.
  • A gymnast misses the high bar during a release move and falls.
  • A diver strikes the bottom of a shallow pool.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cervical fracture?

Please consult your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cervical fracture diagnosed?

Conscious patients with an acute neck injury may or may not have severe neck pain. They may also have pain spreading from the neck to the shoulders or arms, resulting from the vertebra compressing a nerve. There may be some bruising and swelling at the back of the neck. The physician will perform a complete neurological examination to assess nerve function and may request additional radiographic studies, such as MRI or computed tomography (CT), to determine the extent of the injuries.

How is cervical fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on which of the seven cervical vertebrae are damaged and the kind of fracture sustained. A minor compression fracture can be treated with a cervical brace worn for 6 to 8 weeks until the bone heals. A more complex or extensive fracture may require traction, surgery, 2 to 3 months in a rigid cast, or a combination of these treatments.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

 

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cervical fracture?

Improvements in athletic equipment and rule changes have reduced the number of sports-related cervical fractures over the past 20 years. You can help protect yourself and your family if you:

  • Always wear a seat belt when you are driving or a passenger in a car.
  • Never dive in a shallow pool area, and be sure that young people are properly supervised when swimming and diving.
  • Wear the proper protective equipment for your sport and follow all safety regulations, such as having a spotter and appropriate cushioning mats.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 30, 2017 | Last Modified: October 30, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.