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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A neck fracture is caused by severe trauma to the neck, which is strong enough to break the vertebrae. Trauma may be caused by:
- Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian collisions
- Diving into shallow water
- Severe and sudden twist to the neck
- Severe blows to the head or neck area
Factors that may increase the risk of neck fracture include:
- Falls from heights, such as a ladder, bike, or horse
- Increased age
- 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
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
- Decreased feeling in the arms or legs
- Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs
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:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
Neck fractures are serious injuries that can lead to paralysis or death. Call for emergency medical services right away.
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.