The 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 also protect the spinal cord from injury. When any of these bones are damaged, then 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 the 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 medical problems where there will be breakage in one or more cervical bones or cervical vertebrae.
A broken neck or a neck fracture may result in paralysis or sudden death unless immediate treatment is made.
Broken neck treatment includes various types of therapies depending upon the graveness of the neck injury and the effects on the body.
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Possible Causes of Getting Neck Fracture
- Fall injury such as a fall from the horse, tree or bike while driving
- Automobile and motorcycle collusive accidents and its 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 factors where the risk of getting the neck fracture is high. They are:
- Muscle lax in the neck region due to any disease or accident
- Advancing towards old age
- People with certain diseases like osteoporosis
- Certain violent sports like football, wrestling, rugby, soccer, etc.
- Driving the car without wearing a seat belt
- Driving the motorcycle without wearing the helmet, etc.
Major Symptoms of A Broken Neck
The major symptoms which one gets 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.
The major and immediate diagnostic tool which gives an immediate confirmatory result in case of neck fracture is a simple X-ray with anterior-posterior and lateral view.
Apart from the X-ray, a 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 proceeding with 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
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.
- Cervical Collar
- Rigid Braces
- Broken neck Surgery
Fracture to the neck usually happens suddenly which may be result of a fall or a vehicle accident. And therefore first aid treatment is of primary importance to prevent any aggravation of the injury.
As a first step the patient should not be allowed to move and kept lying still until emergency care arrives. The head should be gently supported by both hands and taken to the emergency room preferable in a lying position or by dragging the patient holding by the shoulders with the fore arms.
The next important procedure that has to be carried out in case of neck fracture is immobilizing the neck region with a good bandage or Plaster Of Paris or cervical collar. In case of a broken neck the neck of the victim should be kept immobilised 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.
Treatment for Minor Injury:
A minor fracture of the bone in neck heals naturally with the 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.
If the fracture is mild then 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.
Treatment for Major Injury:
On the other hand, if the injury is serious involving multiple or complex fractures then procedures such as traction, broken neck surgery or internal fixation may be required for 2 to 3 months in a cast to ensure immobilisation of the bones for speedy recovery.
In the traction procedure free weights attached to a pulley are used for traction. However this method for mending the broken neck has become obsolete and thus broken neck surgery has become more effective for complex injuries.
In case of severe neck injury, immediate surgery is needed where the broken bones are realigned through fixing them up in position with a metal plate, fixing it with screws. This helps the bones to be keep aligned which does not affect the surrounding nerves.
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.
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 the 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.
According to latest researches the 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 proper guidance is necessary from a qualified physical instructor. Long term rehabilitation through mild exercises and physiotherapy may be needed 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 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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