Neck area of the spine consists of seven bones attached together in the spinal column. These support the head to connect the shoulder and rest of the body.
These seven bones grouped together as a spinal column also help protect the spinal cord from getting any type of injury. However in case any of these bones get damaged, it is called as broken neck which is medically also termed as neck fracture or cervical fracture.
Cervical vertebrae is the basic structure which form the neck or cervical spine. Apart from seven bones in the cervical vertebrae and neck region there are many major structures present like cervical nerves, cranial nerves, base of the brain, spinal cord, etc.
Neck fracture or a broken neck is one of the major complicated medical problems where a breakage in one or more cervical bones or cervical vertebrae occurs.
A broken neck or a neck fracture may result in paralysis or even sudden death unless immediate treatment or first aid is made available.
Broken neck treatment includes various types of therapies depending upon the graveness of the neck injury and its effects on the body.
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Causes of Getting Neck Fracture
Causes of cervical fracture can be many. Some of the most common ones include:
- Fall injury such as a fall from the horse, tree or bike while driving
- Automotive or motorcycle collusive accidents and injuries
- Swimming or diving into shallow water where hard stones or materials are present underneath
- Sudden accidental twist in the neck which mainly happens in case of sporting such as wrestling, boxing, etc.
- Sudden unexpected blows on the neck and head region, etc.
The neck fracture can happen at any time and with any people. But there are certain conditions where the risk of getting the neck fracture is high. These are:
- Muscle lax in the neck region due to any disease or accident
- Advancing towards old age, due to conditions like osteoporosis
- Injury in violent sports like football, wrestling, rugby, soccer, etc.
- Driving a car without wearing a seat belt
- Driving motorcycle without wearing the helmet, etc.
As they say, treatment is always better than prevention. It is good for you to take appropriate care when you get indulged in above activities so that you can easily prevent the fracture.
Also Read: Tips For Preventing Cervical Fracture
Major Symptoms of A Broken Neck
The major symptoms which a person may experience soon after the neck fracture are as follows:
- Severe intolerable pain which is mainly observed when moving the neck area
- Immediate swelling, tenderness and bruises in the neck region
- Loss of sensation can be felt in the arms
- Functional loss also will be experienced in the neck, shoulders and hands
- Muscle weakness and even paralysis may happen sometimes, etc.
A person suffering from broken neck may also start suffering from unbearable bodily pain spreading from neck to shoulders or arms, but primary concern should be to consult the physician at the earliest.
With an immediate X-ray (with anterior-posterior and lateral view) your doctor confirms the fracture and can start the treatment.
Apart from an X-ray, complete history of the patient (which mainly include the symptoms, physical activity, and cause of the injury) along with simple examination gives the confirmation of the neck fracture.
In case of doubtful conditions further tests and procedures (like CT scan and MRI of the cervical spine) are advised which gives extra information about the exact problem.
Broken Neck Treatment and Management
Fracture to the neck usually happens voluntarily and suddenly. This may be a result of sudden fall or a vehicle accident. And therefore first aid treatment is of primary importance to prevent any aggravation of the injury.
In case of a broken neck the neck of the victim should be kept immobilized until the x-ray is taken by the doctor. Any kind of movement of the neck can lead to further injuries, so calling paramedics is the first step that anyone should take to tackle with this problem.
The treatment of broken neck depends on the level of damage that the cervical vertebrae have undergone. There are five major treatments available for curing broken neck. These include:
- Cervical Collar
- Rigid Braces
- Broken neck Surgery
Also Check: Finding Best Neck Brace for Broken Neck
Treating Minor and Major Neck Injuries
A minor fracture of the bone in neck can heal itself naturally with a natural regeneration process of the body. A cervical collar or a brace can be worn if needed for 6 to 8 weeks to treat the minor dislocation of the cervical bone.
Therapists sometimes also suggest using a good posture corrector brace for fractured neck with minor injuries. This type of brace effectively helps in maintaining the posture while performing day to day tasks. A person with a fracture can check more about them and get one after consulting with a doctor.
In a minor or mild cervical fracture your doctor may also recommend taking Calcium and Vitamin-D supplements along with proper rest and relaxation which helps you to easily treat the fracture gradually.
However, if the injury is serious which involves multiple or complex bone fractures then procedures such as cervical traction, broken neck surgery or internal fixation may be required for 2 to 3 months in a cast to ensure immobilization of the bones for speedy recovery.
Surgery for Broken Neck and Invasive Approach
Although neck traction can be used for curing broken neck problem, this method has become obsolete. And thus broken neck surgery has become more effective for treating complex injuries.
Several types of broken neck surgeries can be done depending on the injury caused. The inter-vertebral disc surgery can be done to remove the damaged disc or to relive the spinal cord from pressure.
These discs acts as cushion between the vertebrae so when the damaged disc is removed, metal plates, screws or wires are fixed in the vertebral column by performing broken neck surgery.
Especially in a condition when there is severe neck injury, immediate surgery is needed. Through a surgery process broken bones are realigned by fixing them up in position with a metal plate, fixing it with screws. This helps the bones keep aligned without affect the surrounding nerves.
For long term relief anti-inflammatory medicines and physiotherapy sessions can also be given to the patient to soothe the swelling and pain due to compression.
In case where neck injury is severe and needs immediate surgery, the body condition of the patient should be given primary importance. The approach for operative broken neck treatment varies on many factors such as time and pre-mobility.
Studies showed that time of surgical intervention and studying the mobility before fracture are important factors governing proper treatment for neck fracture.
While internal fixation has been found successful in young patients, a medical study reveals that after one operation patients can be healed up to the stage of hip arthroplasty who are between 15 to 50 years of age.
Importance Of Proper Exercises For Fast Recovery
Proper exercises for neck are important to regain mobility after a broken neck. And to perform them, getting proper guidance is necessary from a qualified physical instructor.
Long term rehabilitation through mild exercises and physiotherapy is important in case where the patient has suffered paralysis.
There are certain restrictions on weight bearing exercises and it is important that the physical therapist assist the patient throughout the entire course of rehabilitation until full mobility is regained.
There are physical therapy programs and exercises available for post-operative treatment and for non-operative rehabilitation, where the patient should be first mobilized to prevent any aggravation to the injury.
Overall, broken neck treatment varies from patient to patient and extensive research work is carried out to find out more underlying causes that would help in the treatment processes.
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