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A broken neck is a fracture or dislocation of one or more of the seven bones (vertebrae) of the neck. A fracture to one or more vertebrae is very serious injury and if you suspect someone may have fractured their neck they should not be moved without professional advice. Following X rays and CT scans specialist medics will decide whether the fracture is stable or unstable. An unstable fracture is immobilised in a hard neck brace for at least six weeks, as the position of the fragments of broken vertebrae could dislodge with movement. A stable fracture would mean the patient could move the neck gently, as pain allows.

A broken neck does not necessarily mean that there is spinal cord damage or injury. However this can only be determined by a medical professional.

What causes a Broken neck?

A neck fracture is normally caused by severe trauma to the neck. Examples include:
  • Falls, such as from a horse or bike
  • Collisions, such as motorcycle or automobile
  • Diving into shallow water
  • Severe and sudden twist to the neck
  • Severe blows to the head or neck area

What are the symptoms of a Broken neck?

A broken neck is usually caused by an accident or injury. The symptoms include:
  • Neck pain, which may or may not be severe
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Decreased feeling in the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs

What treatments are there for a Broken neck?

If you suspect someone has a broken neck do NOT move them as this may cause more harm. Ring the emergency services on 999. Broken necks are delicate and need to be treated in the right way by a medical professional only.

After a patient is diagnosed with a broken neck, the doctor will have to determine the best treatment depending on the type of break. Surgery is often considered to treat a fractured neck. The surgeon chooses the treatment method based on the severity of the fracture. For example, the fractured bones (vertebrae) may be fused to the healthy vertebrae next to it, or may be removed and replaced with a bone graft that is fused to the vertebrae on either side. Traction techniques may be used to help align the bones as they heal. Neck surgery is often complicated and the recovery process can be slow. After full recovery, further rehabilitation and Physiotherapy treatment should be sought.

For more information about physiotherapy for neck problems, or to book an appointment please call 0161 883 0077.

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