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Broken Neck

Broken Neck

Definition

A neck fracture is a break in one or more of the 7 cervical bones. The vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine. The cervical vertebrae in the neck are labeled C1-C7. They protect the spinal cord, support the neck, and allow for movement.

C1-C7 Fracture Sites
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Causes

A neck fracture is caused by severe trauma to the neck, which is strong enough to break the vertebrae. Trauma may be caused by:

  • Falls
  • Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian collisions
  • Diving into shallow water
  • Severe and sudden twist to the neck
  • Severe blows to the head or neck area

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of neck fracture include:

  • Falls from heights, such as a ladder, bike, or horse
  • Increased age
  • Osteoporosis
  • Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles or post- menopause
  • Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Playing certain sports that may result in neck fracture, such as football, rugby, or ice hockey
  • Not wearing a seatbelt or protective sports equipment
  • Head or other traumatic injury, such as severe chest trauma, pelvic or femur fractures
  • Violence

Symptoms

A person with a neck injury should not be moved without competent medical care, which is needed right away.

Neck fracture may cause:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling and possible bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Decreased feeling in the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs

Diagnosis

You will most likely be taken to a hospital. You will be asked about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. Your neck will be examined and a complete neurological exam will be done.

Imaging tests evaluate the spine and surrounding structures. These may include:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan

Treatment

Neck fractures are serious injuries that can lead to paralysis or death. Call for emergency medical services right away.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting a neck fracture:

  • Avoid situations that put you at risk of physical harm.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
  • Use proper tackling techniques in football. Do not spear with your helmet.
  • Never dive in the shallow end of a pool.
  • Never dive into water where you do not know the depth or what obstacles may be present.
  • Do weight-bearing exercises to build strong muscles and bones.

To help reduce falling hazards at work and home:

  • Clean spills and slippery areas right away.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter.
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
  • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.
  • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways.
  • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls.
  • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage.
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