Cervical Spine Ligament Injury
What is the cervical spine?
The cervical spine is the upper seven vertebrae of your spine. The spine serves to hold the spinal cord in place so basic functions, such as breathing, movement, and feeling can occur in your body.
What are cervical spine ligaments?
Ligaments are structures that connect bone to bone. Spine ligaments are structures that hold the vertebrae of the spinal column in place. They provide protection to the vertebrae and spinal cord. The neck is an exposed and vulnerable part of the body. These ligaments are very important in keeping the spine safe.
What is a cervical spine ligament injury?
This injury occurs when your body sustains a rapid and forceful impact. This rapid movement pulls the ligaments that are around the spine. This movement causes injury to them. There are two types of injuries. The first one is called a strain. This is where the ligament is stretched, but not torn. You will have some pain and swelling. The other type is a tear. Each injury varies in how the ligament tears, but overall, this injury is more painful and serious.
What tests will I need?
X-rays and a physical exam will be done to look for ligament injury.
In some cases, an MRI may be done.
How is it treated?
Based on your injury, you may
Be treated in a cervical collar.
Need a halo vest to keep your head and shoulders steady and not moving.
What should I expect while in the hospital?
When you arrive at the hospital, you will be placed on spine precautions. A physical exam will be done. You will have X-rays. You may have CT scans or an MRI to check for spinal fractures and ligament injuries. Once your doctor has the results of these tests, your treatment plan will be decided upon. For a cervical spine ligament injury, a brace will stay in place. A rehabilitation plan will be started. Physical therapy will help you get your strength back. You will learn to do the exercises. Once you can go home, you will have instructions in how to care for your injury. Appointments will be set up for follow-up. You will not be allowed to do any lifting while you heal.
What are other complications?
Further injury can occur to the bones in the spine or the spinal cord if the neck is not well supported with a collar while the ligaments are healing. This is why it is vital to follow your doctor’s orders and wear your collar at all times.
How long will the treatment take?
Your doctors will decide how long your injury needs to be treated.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/12/2010
Copyright © 01/12/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6929
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