spine injuries can occur during motor vehicle
accidents, in rough contact sports, after a fall,
or by hitting your head against a hard surface,
such as when diving into a pool that is too shallow.
These accidents can cause injuries that range
from mild cases of neck pain, called whiplash,
to injuries that can cause paralysis of the rest
of the body below the level of injury.
Whiplash is the common
term used for a hyperextension injury to the neck.
Though the neck is a very flexible structure,
it can be injured when the weight of the head
exceeds the neck's ability to control its motion.
The injury usually happens when the head is suddenly
jerked back and forth beyond its normal limits
during a car accident, rough contact sports, or
a fall. This jerking motion can cause over-stretching
and tearing of the neck muscles and ligaments
and can cause the discs between the neck vertebrae
to bulge, tear or rupture.
The discs that act as
shock absorbers between the vertebral bodies of
the cervical spine can be damaged during an accident.
When this happens, the material in the center
of the disk can be pushed out from where it normally
is, a process called disk herniation. A herniated
disk can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves
to the arms and legs. In situations when a disk
ruptures very quickly, as in the case of an accident,
then the nerve does not have any time to adjust
to the increased pressure and it may stop working.
Fractures and dislocations
of the cervical spine demand early and accurate
diagnosis so that treatment can quickly be introduced
in order to produce a painless, stable neck and
prevent pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves.
When the neck is injured in very violent accidents,
the bones in the neck can be broken or pulled
forcefully out of normal alignment. Fractures
and dislocations of the cervical spine are very
serious injuries because there is the potential
for damage to the spinal cord if the patient is
not taken care of very carefully.
Each year in the United
Sates, there will be approximately 50,000 new
spinal cord injuries caused by accidents. A spinal
cord injury occurs when the cord itself is crushed,
stretched, or torn by the accident. Unfortunately,
this is still an injury that can not be reversed
or cured by modern medicine. More than half of
these injuries involves the cervical spine, and
most of them happen to young men. These injuries
are incredibly devastating to the patient, their
families, and also to their communities. There
is currently a lot of research being done on ways
to minimize spine injuries by designing cars for
better safety, improving protective gear like
football helmets, and educating people about the
dangers of certain activities. There is also a
lot of research being done on how to care for
someone immediately after they have had a spinal
cord injury, and also what kind of rehabilitation
is best for them.