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Injury Definitions

Neck Injuries


The cervical spine is composed of vertebrae which begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. Because the neck is so flexible and it supports the head, it is extremely vulnerable to injury. Motor vehicle accidents, contact sports, and falls may result in neck injury. A rear end automobile collision may result in hyperextension (a backward motion of the neck beyond normal limits) or hyperflexion (a forward motion of the neck beyond normal limits). Most common injuries to the neck are to the soft tissues, i.e., muscles and ligaments. More serious injuries involve disk injuries. Severe injury with fracture or dislocation of the neck may damage the spinal cord and cause paralysis.

There are numerous diagnostic tests used to evaluate the neck. An x-ray is a film that images bony structures. It can reveal the presence of fractures or misalignment of the vertebrae. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a non X-ray study which allows an evaluation of the spinal cord and the nerve roots. A CT scan (computed tomography), is a specialized X-ray study allowing for careful evaluation of the bone, nerve roots, and spinal canal. A Myelogram (injection of a dye or contrast material into the spinal canal) is a specific X-ray study that also allows careful evaluation of the spinal canal and nerve roots. An EMG (electromyogram) is a test that evaluates nerve and muscle function. A nerve conduction study is a test that evaluates the sensory nerve function of the nerves.

How neck pain is treated depends on what the diagnosis reveals. However, most patients are treated successfully with rest, medication, immobilization, physical therapy, exercise, activity modifications or a combination of these methods. Surgery may be necessary to reduce pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root when pain is caused by a herniated disk or bony narrowing of the spinal canal. Surgery may also be required following an injury, to stabilize the neck and minimize the possibility of paralysis such as when a fracture results in instability of the neck. 

For related information go to: Back Injuries, Broken Bones, Elder Abuse, Intervertebral Disk Injuries, Medical Malpractice, Myofascial Pain, Negligence Law, Nerve Injuries, Nursing Home Neglect, Pain, Premises Liability, Products Liability, Quadriplegia and Radiculopathy.

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