Spinal injuries occur when something hits the back of the neck, causing pressure on the spinal cord. This can happen from falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and even work-related injuries. It may be possible for someone with a spinal injury to walk again, but it’s important to get help as soon as possible.
Checking for a spinal injury can ensure that you get the treatment you need as soon as possible, and there are a number of steps that you will need to use to check for this – read on to discover all you need to know about checking for spinal injuries; it could be the most important check that you ever carry out.
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What Is A Spinal Injury?
The human spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae, which make up the backbone. These connect to each other at joints called intervertebral discs. In between these are soft cushions called ligaments, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. When one of these areas becomes damaged or injured, it can cause pain in the body, and this can lead to serious problems if not treated quickly.
A spinal injury occurs when something strikes the back of the neck and causes damage to the spinal cord. This might result in paralysis, numbness, weakness, or loss of feeling in parts of the body.
How Can I Check For A Spinal Injury?
If you suspect that you or someone else may be suffering from a spinal injury, it is important to be extremely careful when making your checks – spines are delicate, and a wrong move or too much pressure could cause real issues.
There are a few indicators which could suggest a spinal injury, and these include:
- Look for any irregular or unusual twists or shape in the normal curvature of the spine
- If possible, ask the patient whether there is any pain in their neck or back, or at the site of the injury
- Check for any bruising or tender spots in the skin up the length of the spine
- If possible, ask the patient to gently try and move their limbs – weakness or an inability to move limbs can be a sign of spinal injury
- Watch for any loss of bladder or bowel control
- Watch for any breathing difficulties
- If possible, ask the patient about any loss of sensation in the limbs, back, or neck, or for an unusual sensation such as a burning or tingling feeling
What Should I Do If I Suspect A Spinal Injury?
Your next steps will depend on whether the patient is conscious and responsive, or unconscious.
If the patient is responsive, the following steps are applicable:
Try and reassure the patient as much as possible, and tell them not to move if possible – the only exception is if immediate danger is present.
2. Contact The Emergency Services
The next step is to call 911 or get someone else to do this for you.
3. Support The Head
Steady and support the head, and keep the head, neck, and spine in a straight line. Kneel behind the head of the patient, and rest your elbows on your knees or on the ground to stay steady. Hold both sides of their head gently, spreading your fingers, and keep their head in as neutral a position as possible.
You can also use rolled-up clothes, blankets, or even soft bags to keep the patient’s head in a neutral position until help and assistance arrives.
If the patient is unresponsive, you should still try to talk and reassure them and call the emergency services. It is also important to keep their head and neck in a neutral position, just as described.
With an unconscious patient, you should also open their airway, placing your fingertips at the angles of the jaw and gently tilt the jaw – take care not to move their neck at all. Listen to their breathing by placing an ear above their mouth and looking down at the body. Look for breaths, try to feel breath on your cheek, and listen carefully. If there is no sign of breathing, start CPR.
Spinal cord injuries can be incredibly serious, and it is important that you are extremely careful when dealing with a suspected spinal injury. Always remember not to move the head and neck unless absolutely necessary – such as in a case where danger is imminent – and call the emergency services as soon as possible to reduce the risk of long-term injury and paralysis.