The cervical spine is the set of bones located at what is termed as the neck. It runs from the first vertebra just below the skull and ends at the seventh vertebra which normally lies just above the thoracic spine.

Injuries to this part of the spine can sometimes be mistaken for something else and therefore, left unattended.

Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by sudden extension or rotation of the neck. This could occur due to road accidents, sports injuries or major falls. Symptoms include a headache, stiff neck and pain in the upper or lower back and upper limbs.

It does not involve any broken bones so it should not be a cause for extreme worry even though it is a cause of a lot of discomfort.

An incomplete injury is one where the injured party is still able to perform normal body functions like movement of limbs. A complete injury is one where body functions are lost and the chance of recovering them becomes very slim.

There are many different signs to look out for in the event of a cervical injury although sometimes they may not appear.

There may be some pain or discomfort depending on the extent of the injury but of course the more intense the pain is then the more serious the injury will turn out to be.

symptoms of cervical spine injury
Signs you might be experiencing a cervical spine injury

Signs & Symptoms of Cervical Spine Injury to look out for

1. Pain

Pain can be caused by a number of reasons. The cervical nerve roots may be compressed by a protruding disc and since the nerves are very sensitive to even the slightest pressure it would result in some pain at that specific point.

2. Numbness

This is a loss of feeling in the neck or the area right below the injured point. It can be very worrying but it does not mean that you will lose function in your neck.

It should be checked within the shortest time possible so as to begin treatment and hopefully avoid further damage.

3. Muscular spasms

A cervical spine injury may cause involuntary muscle spasms that may run down to the shoulders. It can get scary and disturbing but with some help from a doctor before it frustrates you it should normalize or at least reduce.

4. Loss of body functions

Depending on the location of the injury some functions may be lost. An injury to the C1-C2 may cause loss of breathing and this may require mechanical ventilators to assist in breathing.

This also applies to damage to the C3 vertebra which results in loss of diaphragm function thus compelling the need for a ventilator.

A damage to the C4 vertebra leads to loss of bicep and shoulder functions. The C5 vertebra may cause loss of function in the shoulders and biceps and could lead to total loss of wrist and hand functions.

Reduced wrist control and total loss of hand function is as a result of damage to the C6 while damage to the C7 leads to a lack of agility or nimbleness in the fingers and hands although arms can still be used to an extent.

The T1 vertebra marks the beginning of the thoracic spine but damage to it causes a similar reaction like an injury to the C7 vertebra.

5. Inability to regulate some body functions

Cervical injuries can cause a reduction in your body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, sweating and therefore body temperature.

In more serious circumstances it could cause a total inability to control these vital body processes.

3 Things to do in case You have cervical spine injury

1. Remain calm

It can be very distressing to have a major injury such as this or to even witness something like it. Strive to maintain your composure since it will help in assisting the injured person.

Composure for the patient is also important since they will be able to answer any questions from the medical team pertaining to your injury.

2. The injured person should not be moved

The spine is a very delicate part of the human body so care should be taken while handling a spinal injury patient. There should be minimal movement if at all until the extent of damage is ascertained.

There should also be no attempts at heroism if there are no medical personnel around because this may actually endanger the life of the injured individual.

3. Call for medical assistance

This is the first thing you should do since the sooner medical assistance is given to a cervical injury patient the better the chances of recovery.

Body functions can be saved or restored if the recuperation process begins soon after the injury occurs.

A cervical spine injury will be conclusively diagnosed after a series of x-rays and a CT scan. A CT scan gives more detail and should be able to identify some injuries that an x-ray may have missed.

The more detail discovered early on the better the chances of recovery.

Treatment and stabilization of the patient can be via surgery, steroids or any other treatment method. Each has its pros and cons but the doctor should be able to choose an appropriate treatment course after collecting all the relevant information.

Once treatment is done therapy is required to help the patient improve on functions and they may require assistive devices and occupational therapy.

A lot of other complications may arise as a result of spinal injury and they will require specific treatment and assistance.

These include muscle spasms lung infections, blood clots, chronic pain and even depression among others.These will eventually pass with proper care and should not sound like a death sentence.

If the course of treatment is started in good time chances of recovery are increased. Physical therapy can be tiring and bothersome but will largely contribute to recovery of body functions that may have been lost as a result of the accident.

A positive mindset and emotional support are also very essential to the recovery. It should take around 6 months to heal but assistive devices can be used to allow a patient to go about everyday activities and remain productive.

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