Brief Outline of Neck Injury
Injuries to the neck can be serious, particularly in the case of broken or fractured vertebrae. Neck strains are less serious and far more common and involve injury to the muscles or tendons of the neck. Contusions are bruises to the skin and underlying tissue of the neck, usually the result of a direct blow.
Anatomy and physiology
The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, which begin at the base of the skull (C1) and curve downward slightly as they reach the chest region and connect with the thoracic vertebrae (C7). Muscles running from the rib cage and collarbone to the cervical vertebrae, jaw, and skull appear on the front or anterior cervical area. The posterior cervical muscles cover the bones along the back of the spine and make up the bulk of the tissues on the back of the neck.
Cause of Neck Injury
Sudden twisting of the neck. Serious fall. Direct blow to the neck, in the case of contusion.
Signs and Symptoms
Head, neck, and shoulder pain. Crackling sensation in the neck. Loss of neck strength and mobility.
Complications if left neck injury unattended
Injuries to the neck are potentially serious and deserve prompt medical attention. Long-term paralysis, loss of motion and coordination, calcification and osteoporosis are possible side-effects. In the case of fracture, the injury can lead to parapelgia and is also sometimes fatal.
Treatment for neck injury
Treatment for neck injury will depends on the severity of the injury.
Treatment ranges from conservative like oral anti-inflammatories, injection or physiotherapy. Otherwise, we may need to explore surgical option.
Rehabilitation and prevention
For neck strains, immobilisation for a period of weeks with a brace may be recommended. In cases of fracture, the broken vertebrae may be surgically pinned together with screws and the patient may be placed in a neck cast. Physical therapy following healing will attempt to re-establish range of motion, flexibility, and strength. Helmets or other athletic headgear as well as attention to proper technique can help prevent some neck injuries.
Outcomes for neck injury vary widely depending on the nature and severity. In cases of fracture, the prognosis is generally worse with injuries occurring higher up the cervical spine.
Neck strains and contusions are far less serious and their outcome – given proper treatment and rehabilitation – is usually good. Severe strains in which the muscle-tendon-bone attachment is ruptured may require surgical repair.