Automobile collisions and workplace accidents are common causes of neck injuries. A familiar auto accident injury is “whiplash.” Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck that can vary in severity.
What to do in case of a severe neck injury:
Time is of the essence when you suspect someone has suffered a severe neck injury. The following steps should be taken in neck emergencies:
1) Call 911 for help;
2) Do not move the person, especially the head unless the failure to do so presents a clear and present danger;
3) Keep the person completely immobile;
3A. Exceptions to Immobility
Persons suffering from severe neck injuries should be moved if:
a. Their life is threatened, if they aren’t moved;
b. They are vomiting;
c. They are choking on blood;
d. You don’t detect any signs that they breathing or you cannot find a pulse in order to determine if CPR is needed.
When it is necessary to move a neck injury victim, keep their head immobile, and move them as one unit. Do the same if you need to roll them over. To roll a victim over, you will need two people ---- one at the head and one at the feet.
Back injuries are common in workplace accident or automobile collisions. Back injuries include muscle strains, sprains, bruising, spasms, ruptured and herniated discs, just to name a few. A person’s level of physical fitness can affect not only the “degree of injury” to their back, but also their speed of recovery, when compared to the general population. Aerobic exercises and strong stomach muscles can help decrease the risk of back injury. Additionally, losing extra pounds, if you are overweight will also hasten your recovery time.
Ruptured Discs (Bulging or Slipped Discs)
The spine is made up of a series of vertebrae with discs separating each one. Discs consist of cartilage and serve to cushion each vertebra during normal activity. A “rupture” of a disc occurs when the disc’s soft inner cushion shoots out through the disc’s harder exterior, creating pressure on the nerve root. A ruptured disc, also called a bulging or slipped disc, can make almost any activity painful, particularly sitting for long periods of time. There are a number of causes related to ruptured discs, including traumatic accidents and repetitive motion.
A herniated disc is similar to a ruptured disc, only more advanced. A herniated disc occurs with the same bulging of the disc into the spinal canal, but pieces of the disc actually break off and enter the spinal canal.
Approximately 90% of disc herniations will occur at L4-L5 (lumbar segments 4 and 5) or L5-S1 (lumbar segment 5 and sacral segment 1), which causes pain in the L5 nerve or S1 nerve, respectively.
When part of a disc presses on a nerve in the lumbar region, it can cause numbness, weakness and tingling down the legs and into the feet. A herniated disc pressing on the nerves in the spine can also cause weakness of the leg.
The group of muscles that are weak depends on which nerve is being impinged.
A herniated disc can also produce pain in both the back and the legs. The location of the pain depends on which disc is weak. How bad the pain is depends on how much of the disc is pressing on the nerve. In most people with herniated discs, the pain spreads over the buttocks and goes down the back of one thigh and into the calf. This is commonly referred to as Sciatica.
The pain from a herniated disc is usually worse when you’re active, and improves when you are resting. Coughing, sneezing, sitting, driving, and bending forward may make the pain worse. The pain often times gets worse with these movements because of additional pressure put on the nerve.
SPINAL CORD INJURIES
A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling.
The spinal cord does not have to be cut or severed in order for a loss of function to occur. In reality, most people with SCI, the spinal cord is intact. SCI is different from back or neck injuries. For example, a person can “break their neck or back” and not sustain a spinal cord injury, if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord is not affected.
Generally speaking, injuries that occur higher in the spinal cord produce more paralysis. For example, a spinal cord injury at the neck level may cause paralysis in both arms and legs and make it impossible to breathe without a respirator, while a lower injury may affect only the legs and lower parts of the body.
Spinal cord injuries are classified as: 1) partial or, 2) complete – depending on how much of the cord width is damaged. Thus, in a partial or “incomplete” spinal cord injury, the spinal cord injury is able to convey some messages to or from the brain., and may retain some sensation and possibly some motor function below the affected area. Alternatively, a complete injury involves a complete loss of motor function and sensation below the area of injury. A key distinction is that those with a partial spinal cord injury are able to experience significant recovery, while those with complete injuries are not.
Most trauma to the spinal cord causes permanent disability or loss of movement (paralysis) and sensation below the site of injury. Paralysis can involve all four extremities, a condition called quadriplegia, or the paralysis can involve only the lower body, a condition called paraplegia.
Traumatic brain injury occurs when an external object impacts the head hard enough to cause the brain to move within the skull. The crash of a motor vehicle collision can cause such an injury. Also, a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head (whiplash effect) can force the brain to move back and forth, inside the skull bruising brain tissue and pulling apart nerve fibers, which can: affect a person’s level of consciousness, impair their cognitive abilities, and/or physical functioning.
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