The cervical spine is formed by seven square shaped bones
called cervical vertebrae. The vertebrae are named beginning at the top with
C1, C2, C3, down to C7. Together with the supporting ligaments and the
overlying neck muscles, the cervical vertebrae form a spinal canal that
surrounds and protects the spinal cord. The vertebrae have gelatin-like discs
between them which function as shock absorbers.
Shop Neck Fracture Solutions
A neck fracture occurs when a person breaks one of the
cervical vertebrae. There are different types of neck fractures, depending on
which bone breaks and how it breaks. Some are much more serious than others.
The most feared complication of the neck fracture is damage to the spinal cord
which can lead to paralysis. It is crucial to immobilize the spine with a
cervical collar as soon as the neck injury occurs to prevent any further shift
of bone fragments and potential spinal cord injury.
- Neck pain
- Neck muscle spasm
- Inability to move the neck or turn
- Weakness or paralysis in the arms
- Numbness or tingling the arms or
Types of Neck Fractures
- Atlas (C1) fracture – usually
treated with a halo brace; surgical fusion is occasionally necessary.
- Odontoid fractures (C2) – result
from the direct head impact which causes a fracture in the tooth-like
projection from C2 v known as dens or odontoid. These fractures are usually
managed non-surgically and have a good prognosis.
- Hangman’s fracture usually results
from hyperextension injury during motor vehicle or diving accidents. The name
is derived from the similar injury suffered during execution-style hangings.
Most cases can be successfully treated with immobilization but surgical fusion
may be indicated.
- Cervical compression fractures can
often occur when an athlete uses the head in blocking or tackling or during
diving into shallow water. Mild fractures result in neck pain and spasm. Severe
fractures can cause quadriplegia and death.
- Cervical spinous process fracture
is a fracture of the tip of the spinous process most commonly involving C7
vertebrae. This type of fracture is commonly seen following trauma from an
assault or motor vehicle accident. Treatment consists of cervical collar
immobilization and pain relief.
Neck fractures are usually diagnosed with an X-ray or CT
scan of the neck.
Treatment depends on the type of the fracture. Severe neck
fractures will require hospitalization and surgery. Neck fractures that are not
as serious are usually treated with a special neck collar or brace to hold the
neck in place so it can’t move. People need to wear the collar or brace until
their fracture heals.
It may take months for neck fracture to heal. After the
fracture heals, a course of physical therapy is usually recommended to
strengthen the weakened neck muscles. Eating enough calcium, vitamin D and
protein and abstaining from smoking will help to expedite the healing process.