There are varying degrees of cervical spine injuries resulting from trauma like accidental falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence, or sports activities. The higher up the injury happens on the vertebral column, the closer it is to the brain and the bigger effect it has on sensation and bodily function, like breathing. Cervical fractures and dislocations are classified according to the region or location of the injury on the vertebrae (C1-C7).
Injuries like cervical fractures and dislocations occur when there is the abrupt impact or twisting of the spine during the initial moment of trauma, which can cause the bones of the cervical spine to break or the ligaments to rupture. Fractures or instability of the bone structure may also cause damage to the spinal cord and nerves.
Types of Cervical Spine Injuries
Cervical fractures occur when there is a break or crack in the bones of the vertebrae structure in the neck. Patients with cervical fractures usually have significant pain and stiffness in the neck and may experience pain in other areas, due to neurologic compression or irritation. A fracture in the neck can sometimes cause a complete spinal cord injury and lead to paralysis or even death, but in most cases, the patient can make a full recovery.
Cervical dislocation happens when trauma to the neck causes a misalignment of two or more adjoining bones of the vertebrae structure. The structure can become abnormally separated and cause misalignment, which typically causes instability and damage to neurological function. Patients experience significant pain and/or loss or motor function.
Nerve root damage
Nerve root damage occurs when an injury pinches, compresses, or severs the nerves in the cervical spine. Muscle weakness, sensitivity, or numbness is common.
Intervertebral disc damage
Intervertebral disc damage happens when a tear, rapture, or legion on the disc tissue results because of trauma to the vertebrae structure. Impaired motion or bodily function might result from intervertebral disc damage. With time, if not treated, the disc can breakdown completely, leaving no space between the vertebrae, which can limit function further and increase pain.
Cervical stenosis occurs when the trauma causes a narrowing of passages, like those of the neurological system. Numbness, pain, tingling, and lack of sensation are common results of stenosis.
Cervical sprains and strains
Cervical sprains or strains can happen when the neck muscles or tendons are overstretched during the moments of the initial trauma, causing conditions like whiplash. Most patients recover after a few weeks of rest and limited mobility. A more severe strain can take a few months to recover.
Fractures and dislocations of the cervical spine account for half of all spinal column injuries that occur annually. Because of the cervical spine’s mobility, it is the most vulnerable to injury during times of trauma. Cervical spinal cord injuries are usually the most devastating and often irreversible and permanent. Cervical spinal cord injuries may result in quadriplegia or tetraplegia and loss of muscle strength in some or all extremities. Nerve damage increases as inflammation, dislocation or improper alignment continue so assessing a cervical spine injury immediately is paramount to prevent progressive damage that may occur after the initial trauma.
For more information on these types of spine injuries and how to get the help you need, contact Spine Diagnostics using the form below. Our team of highly specialized physicians is here to help you.