Broken Neck or Neck Fracture

What Is Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

A Broken Neck or Neck Fracture is a break in any of the seven bones that constitute the cervical vertebrae. This is potentially a serious medical condition as the spinal cord passes through this region and any damage to the spinal cord can result in permanent impairment. Broken Neck or Neck Fracture usually results due to high impact traumatic injuries like automobile accidents, fall from a significant height, sporting injuries etc.

What Is Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

What Are The Causes Of Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

A Broken Neck or Neck Fracture is caused due to abrupt forceful impact on the head or neck like falling and landing on the head like in a tackle in football or rugby. Car crashes is one of the most common cause of Broken Neck or Neck Fracture. How serious the injury is depends on various factors like which part of the vertebra got injured, severity of the fracture, is the fracture displaced, etc. Any injury to the neck is treated as a neck fracture unless proved otherwise. In case the spinal cord gets damaged due to the injury then the affected individual may end up having significant neurological symptoms including complete paralysis.

What Are The Symptoms Of Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

What Are The Symptoms Of Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

Broken Neck or Neck Fracture has variable symptoms which range from mild to may be even fatal. The one symptom which will be experienced is pain in the neck with inability to move the neck in any direction. This pain may radiate to the arms and shoulders as well. There may be bruising observed as well at the site of the injury.

How Is Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Broken Neck or Neck Fracture, the treating physician will conduct a thorough neurological evaluation to investigate the nerve function and will order imaging studies like MRI or CT scan to look at the extent of the injury.

What Are The Treatments For Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

What Are The Treatments For Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture?

As stated earlier, all neck injuries are treated as fracture unless proven otherwise. So, to begin with, the neck will be immobilized to prevent further damage to the vertebrae. The neck will be put in a rigid collar to prevent mobilization. It is preferable to not move the patient unless absolutely necessary and even if the patient has to be moved then that should be done with extreme caution so as not to injure the spine further. Once a fracture is diagnosed, then the individual will require surgical procedure to fix the fracture utilizing plates and screw fixation.

Physical Therapy Treatment For A Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture

Physical therapy is also an important aspect when it comes to treating Broken Neck or a Neck Fracture. If an individual suffers from a Broken Neck or a Neck Fracture, after the above mentioned treatment is done, the treating physician will recommend the individual to a physical therapist who will formulate a detailed program for rehabilitation of the neck post fracture treatment which has been illustrated below:

When the patient first visits the physical therapist, he or she will have to give a more detailed history of how the injury occurred. The physical therapist may ask the individual to rate the pain from 0-10 with 0 being the least and 10 being the worst pain that the patient had ever experienced. This will help the therapist in localizing the source of pain and soreness in the neck.

Once the physical therapist has obtained all the information pertaining to the patient, then he or she will start the process of evaluating the neck for any specific areas which might be pain generators.

Posture: To begin with, the physical therapist will start by looking at the posture of the neck so as to assess if the posture might be the culprit to the symptoms since if there is any sort of imbalance in the position of the spine it can result in extra pressure on the joints which are already sore or the nerves and muscles. Usually, people have an incorrect posture while sitting whether it be in the office sitting in front of the computer for prolonged period of time or while in school or college listening to a lecture, which puts extra pressure on the muscles of the neck and affects the flexibility of the neck, hence the therapist will emphasize on proper posture of the neck, especially post fracture as it can go a long way in easing up the pain.

Range of Motion: Now, the therapist will check for the range of motion of the neck and look for any stiffness, as post surgery there will be some stiffness of the cervical spine after prolonged period of immobilization. The therapist will check range of motion in flexion, extension, lateral bending and rotation. The therapist will suggest exercises to improve range of motion once the fracture has healed completely.

Ergonomics: Ergonomics plays an important role in the way the cervical spine functions. Inadequate ergonomic workstations can lead to persistent pain and stiffness in the neck even after treatment and continuous exercises.

Once the therapist is through with the examination and has assessed the potential risk factors for pain and stiffness, he or she will formulate a treatment strategy for complete rehabilitation of the neck, which will include how many visits an individual may require and the duration of the therapy. Apart from adequate rest and application of heat and ice to the affected area, the therapist may also utilize the following tools for rehabilitation purposes:

  • Ultrasound: This will be directed towards the affected area so as to mobilize the molecules resulting in friction between the molecules causing warmth
  • Phonophoresis and Iontophoresis: In Phonophoresis, sound waves or ultrasound is used to infiltrate the skin with a steroid to ease the pain whereas Iontophoresis utilizes a machine which produces minute electrical charges to infiltrate the skin to provide medication to the affected area.
  • Electrical Stimulation: This treatment is done to stimulate the affected nerves with the help of mild amount of electric current. It gives a feeling as if the area is being massaged.
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization: Soft tissue massage is an effective way to calm down inflammation and provide pain relief by relaxing the muscles and joints.
  • Traction: This is used to treat the sore muscles and joints in the neck. The therapist will utilize a traction device which will help in relaxing the muscles. This can also be done manually where the therapist will pull at the neck muscles.

The therapist will also formulate exercises to strengthen the neck muscles. To begin with, gentle exercises will be advised so as to ease the pain and once the fracture has completely healed more aggressive exercises will be recommended in order to strengthen the muscles of the neck.

Apart from strengthening exercises, the therapist will also formulate exercises to improve range of motion and flexibility of the neck. The common exercises done are active range of motion exercises where the individual is asked to move the neck in directions where there is minimal pain.

Once an individual is through with the therapy program he or she will be given a home exercise program to further rehabilitate the neck and maintain the range of motion and strength of the neck.

Recovery Period Of Broken Neck Or Neck Fracture

Recovering from broken neck or neck fracture can take a long time depending on the extent of damage. For minor damage to the neck bone, it can take 6-8 weeks for complete healing. For more serious injury to the neck, it can take 2-4 months for complete recovery from broken neck or neck fracture and getting back to your usually activities.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 2, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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