A cervical bone break — more commonly known as a broken neck — happens when there’s a break in one of the vertebrae that run from the spine into your neck. It should go without saying that cervical bone breaks are a significant issue. Unlike what you may have seen in the movies, however, breaking a cervical bone doesn’t necessarily lead to death or paralysis.

While the location of these breaks means there’s a heightened risk of damage, they can also heal just as a normal broken bone would. Let’s explore the ins and outs of cervical bone breaks, including how they’re commonly treated.

What Is a Cervical Bone Break?

A cervical bone break occurs when one or more of the cervical bones, otherwise known as vertebrae, break. The cervical vertebrae in your neck — classified as C1-C7 — are responsible for protecting the spinal cord and supporting your neck, as well as allowing for neck movement.

You can sustain a cervical bone break from a number of different forceful impacts, which commonly include accidents like falls, car crashes, contact sports injuries and deep dives into shallow water.

Symptoms of a Cervical Bone Break

You might think with something as drastic as a broken neck that you’d immediately know you had fractured one or more of your vertebrae. Sometimes, depending upon the severity of the break, the symptoms are a little subtler than you’d imagine. The typical tell-tale signs of a cervical bone break include:

  • Pain, swelling or spasms in the neck muscles
  • Difficulty moving the neck
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Loss of feeling in the extremities
  • Dizziness, double vision or loss of consciousness
  • Numbness or tingling at the base of the head

Common Treatments for Cervical Bone Breaks

If you have any broken C1-C7 vertebrae, you’ll undergo a number of immediate and longer-term treatments to heal properly. Much of your treatment will depend on the severity of your case, but most patients receive either non-surgical or surgical treatment.

Non-Surgical Methods

Following the diagnosis of a cervical bone break, common treatment includes pain medication to numb or diminish discomfort. Most patients are immobilized in the head and neck to remain still and prevent any further damage while they heal. The immobilization process could include a halo brace, which is placed with pins in the skull and can’t be removed until a health care provider deems it time. You might also have to wear a collar to limit motion while you’re healing.

A cervical bone break patient will likely undergo some form of therapy. Depending on the break and its impact, a physical therapist, occupational therapist and/or speech therapist may be involved in a patient’s treatment program.

Surgical Treatment

In cases where the vertebrae breaks are severe or affect the spinal cord, surgery may be necessary to properly set and treat a cervical bone break. In this case, the surgeon will likely make an incision in the back or front of your neck to repair the break and reset your vertebrae properly. After surgery, patients wear a neck brace for a certain amount of time — typically six to eight weeks or up to three months in the case of complicated surgeries.

Set up an Appointment With NJ Spine and Wellness Today

If you’ve experienced a cervical bone break or are seeking pain management tools to deal with an existing break, reach out to NJ Spine and Wellness today! We are a team of experts in neuro rehab, pain management, physical therapy and more. As an out-of-network provider, we’re fully equipped to offer you a premium level of care without the red tape you may be experiencing with your regular health care provider. Schedule an appointment today to let us know how we can help you get better faster.