If an individual is suspected with a neck or back injury, they must be taken seriously due to the risk of paralysis and even death. Once an individual has a neck or head injury, he/she should not be moved in any way since movement can cause further damage to the spinal cord nerves, resulting to possible paralysis below the site of injury.
Possible causes of neck or back injury
- Falls or accidents that cause direct trauma to the neck, face, head or back (vehicular or biking accidents or diving).
- A major blow to the neck, head or chest
- Any form of activity that results in landing on the head
- Sports activities such as football or hockey that puts an individual at risk for direct trauma
- Abnormal or extreme twisting of the body trunk
What are the symptoms of a serious neck or back injury?
- Tingling sensation or numbness that radiates through the leg or arm
- The head or body is knotted in an irregular or strange position
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Weakening of the neck, back or limbs
- Inability to move the legs or arms
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Shock (clammy or pale skin, bluish lips and fingernails, dazed appearance)
- Neck pain, headache, stiff neck that does not go away
- Loss of consciousness
If any of these symptoms are present, it is best to assume that the individual sustained a spinal cord injury and must take into consideration the following steps:
- Call for emergency assistance right away.
- You have to immobilize the head, neck and shoulder of the individual in order to prevent unnecessary movement.
- Do not attempt to reposition, twist or bend the neck or body of the individual. Remember not to move or roll the individual unless he/she is in danger. In case you have to roll the individual, you can do so if he/she is vomiting or choking on blood or if you have to check if he/she is still breathing. Remember that rolling the individual requires 2 persons where one is positioned at the head and the other along the side. The head as well as the neck and back of the individual must be kept in line while rolling.
- If the individual is using a helmet, do not attempt to remove it.
- In case the individual is not breathing, you can perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if trained to do so. If you want to be prepared to handle emergencies that require CPR, you can register for first aid training today. Remember not to move or tilt the head of the individual back when attempting to open the airway. Try to position the fingers on each jaw along the side of the head and lift the jaw open or in a forward manner.
- If the individual does not have a pulse, perform chest compressions.