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A neck fracture is a serious medical condition that could lead to life-threatening complications. The painful symptoms of a broken vertebra may be apparent immediately after an accident. However, many people with undiagnosed neck fractures do not notice issues right away.
Knowing when to seek medical attention after a car crash can help you avoid unnecessary complications. At Accident Help Zone, we help you find top accident doctors in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Consider the benefits of getting a diagnosis, then get in touch with our experts in NY, NJ, or CT to learn more.
The cervical area of the spine (neck) contains several bones connected by a network of soft tissue and nerves. When a high-impact accident disrupts these bones, the injured person can experience severe pain and immobility. Many people with spinal fractures must undergo immediate surgery to prevent paralysis or other life-altering conditions.
Still, a neck (cervical) fracture may only result in slight discomfort initially. Many people who experience minor pains after an accident do not see a doctor. Unfortunately, an undiagnosed neck fracture can escalate into debilitating conditions that affect the entire neck and back.
If you suspect that you have a cervical spinal fracture, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Physicians will identify the mechanism of injury and issue a diagnosis.
Doctors categorize cervical spine injuries into three groups:
A flexion fracture is an injury in which the front of the vertebrae collapses. Small pieces of bone can damage nerves and muscles in the surrounding area.
Extension fractures occur when the vertebrae come apart. These injuries commonly occur after accidents like high-speed car crashes, where the neck whips forward and back suddenly.
Lastly, rotation fractures stem from injuries in which the spine bends or twists to the side.
The symptoms of cervical spine fractures range from minor to severe. In most cases, the injured person will experience some degree of pain, especially during movement. Other symptoms include:
Many of these symptoms can indicate other medical conditions, like whiplash. Make the best choice and see a doctor for a formal diagnosis to avoid mistreating the injury. A neurological examination will identify any fractures that exist.
As we mentioned above, auto accidents are one of the common causes of neck fractures. Sudden motor vehicle collisions can force the spine to flex unnaturally, resulting in significant bodily harm. Still, underlying health conditions and workplace accidents can also lead to cervical spine injuries.
Cancer or osteoporosis can weaken bone and muscle density. In such cases, pieces of the vertebrae can fracture or shift, causing permanent damage.
Slips and falls on hard surfaces may cause one or more vertebrae to split. These injuries commonly happen in workplaces like construction sites and factories. Still, anyone can sustain a neck injury from a fall at work.
Although the spine is resilient, a sudden blow to the head or back can also cause a neck fracture. These injuries can occur during high-impact sports like football or boxing.
Undiagnosed neck fractures can result in further complications. A vertebral deformity is one example of a severe condition that occurs after an accident. Misalignment of the cervical spine can reduce mobility and weaken overall neck strength.
A vertebral deformity sometimes becomes apparent simply by looking at an injured person’s neck. However, a doctor will conduct initial radiographs to identify specific problem areas in the spine.
Neck fractures can lead to severe nerve damage. When vertebrae pinch or block nerves near the spine, the injured person might experience tingling sensations, fatigue, and radiating pain.
Soft tissue damage can also possibly follow an accident. Fractured bones can damage muscles and prevent the area from healing properly. Soft tissue damage could be permanent without treatment.
The first step to treating a cervical spine fracture is getting a diagnosis from a licensed medical professional. A doctor will conduct a physical exam and determine a rehabilitation plan according to your condition.
You may need to wear a neck brace for several weeks before you notice improvements. Attending physical therapy or other minimally invasive treatments may also become necessary while you heal.
Surgery offers an alternative for those who experience severe injuries and life-threatening complications. This solution may require the application of metal cages or screws to support the spine while it heals. Recovery time varies, but most patients expect improvements after a few months.
Regardless of which treatment you need, the doctor will likely prescribe pain medication throughout recovery.
Ask your doctor if you can support your treatment with at-home remedies. They may recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce stress or strengthen your musculoskeletal function while you recover. Hot and cold therapies may also help reduce swelling.
Don’t wait days or weeks after an accident to seek medical attention. An undiagnosed neck fracture could put you out of work and prevent you from enjoying the things you love.
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