A Broken Neck Guide

Despite what most people think, the broken neck survival rate is quite high. Not every broken neck results in paralysis or a crushed windpipe. Minor fractures can be fairly trivial and the prognosis for a full recovery from them is good. In this short guide, you will find information on neck fractures, what the symptoms are, how they are treated and how they are caused.

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What is a Broken Neck?

A broken neck is a fracture in one of the 7 cervical bones that make up the neck. The cervical vertebrae are number from C1 to C7. They form the upper part of the spine, protecting the spinal cord.

Broken Neck Key Facts

Whilst most people tend to think that with a broken neck death or paralysis is the result, this is not true. Yes, serious cases of a fractured neck can result in death, or full paraplegia, but not every neck fracture is this severe.

The neck connects to the skull at the top of the spinal column, with two special bones. These are the 1st and 2nd vertebrae, known as the atlas and axis respectively. These two bones provide the pivot joint, which allow us to turn our head from side to side.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Neck?

To answer the question, what does a broken neck feel like? The simple answer would be extremely painful. Of all fracture injuries, a broken neck is potentially the most serious, possibly fatal. If you have suffered a broken neck, then you are going to need immediate broken neck NHS treatment. The main broken neck symptoms are:

  • Severe pain – this is the most serious of all fractured neck symptoms even a minor fracture of one of the neck vertebrae is going to cause a painful injury. The neck is extremely hard to immobilise and even the slightest movement could be agony.
  • Bruising and swelling – of the neck or bottom of the skull. However, not every broken neck results in bruising or swelling.
  • Strange sensations – in the arms, legs and extremities such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness or cold.
  • Weakness or total paralysis of the arms or legs – if the broken neck has damaged the spinal cord, you may have reduced or even no control over your limbs.

This is a serious injury if you have any of these broken neck symptoms NHS treatment is a must.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Neck?

The primary cause of a broken neck is some form of direct trauma, this needs to be quite heavy trauma, as the neck is extremely flexible and tends to bend away from low to moderate forces. The most common sources of trauma resulting in broken necks in are:

  • Falling from a moderate height – such as from a roof or a long ladder can result in a broken neck bone.
  • Motor vehicle accidents – such as a car, motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian collision can result in broken neck vertebrae.
  • Diving – into water that is too shallow, which results in a person hitting their head on the bottom.
  • Sudden twists of the neck – such as a person might suffer if they were attacked violently by a third party.

The graph below shows the most common causes of a neck fracture, as we can see, a car crash is by far the most common cause.

Broken Neck Graph

Broken neck statistics.

When Should You Seek Medical Care for a Broken Neck?

In order to ensure that you have the best chance of recovery from a fractured neck and have a good quality of life after a broken neck, you must seek medical care immediately if you believe you have broken your neck. The symptoms outlined above can be used as a guide to judge whether you may have broken your neck, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have been in involved in an accident t that has hurt your neck, visit the hospital right away.

Do not drive yourself to the hospital, even if the pain is negligible. If your neck fracture were to suddenly damage the spinal column whilst you are driving, you could lose control of the vehicle.

If in doubt, call an ambulance so you can be put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital safely.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Neck Report

As part of the treatment which you will receive when you visit an NHS hospital for a broken neck injury, a broken neck x ray will be taken. Your doctor will check the results of this x-ray, and then write up a broken bone report that details your injury and makes a proposal with regard to the best treatment for you.

You are able to request a copy of this broken bone report to take home. Once you have a copy of your own, we might be able to get you a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured neck broken bone report. To find out if we can arrange this, just give us a call, once we know your postcode we can tell you if you are eligible almost immediately.

How is a Broken Neck Diagnosed?

Before you can be treated and begin broken neck treatment your injury needs to be diagnosed. A doctor will examine you, and if he thinks that you may actually have a fractured neck, you will be sent for further tests to confirm and quantify your injury. These tests could include:

  • X-ray – most fractures will show up on an x-ray, and this is the most normal test you will be sent for.
  • MRI scan – with an x ray broken neck injuries which are small, such as hairline fractures, simply do not show up. An MRI scan is much better at uncovering these types of injuries.
  • CT scan – an especially effective test for highlighting tissue and nerve damage associated with a fractured neck.

How is a Broken Neck Treated?

Due to the fact that a broken neck is such a serious, possibly life-threatening injury, treatment is carried out carefully to avoid any further damage. This gives patients the best chance of making a good broken neck recovery.

When you first arrive at the hospital, your condition will be stabilised by the nursing staff. Your neck will be immobilised (probably by getting you onto a gurney and strapped in so you can’t move). Your airway will be checked for blockages, and you will be treated for the pain. A doctor will then perform a full diagnosis of your injury.

Depending upon the severity of your broken neck, a number of treatments could then be selected, and these could include:

For minor fractures, a broken neck brace is used to immobilise and give strength to the neck as the fracture heals.

For more serious fractures, you might need to spend some time in hospital under traction. A special vest is worn, and you will be strapped into a bed, with a series of pulleys connecting your neck brace and vest in a way that keeps the neck immobile, so it can heal.

In the most extreme cases, surgery will be used to insert internal fixations. These are surgical screws, plates and rods that are attached to the bone fragments to keep them in place as they heal. This is usually followed by a period of traction.

You will likely be hospitalised for at least the first few weeks so that this serious condition can be monitored closely. With broken neck recovery elderly people especially need to be monitored around the clock, as the sheer shock and trauma of this injury can lead to death in the frail and elderly.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

Although NHS is really pretty good, the answer to the question, can you fully recover from a broken neck? Is likely to have a much more positive answer if you had access to expert private medical care. NHS treatment is designed to be cost-effective and there may be better but more expensive treatments that could help with your recovery.

There may be some free private medical treatment for a broken neck available in your area. If you give us a call today, we can take your postcode and find out if there is an offer of free private health care that you are eligible for.

Caring for Your Broken Neck at Home

Broken neck recovery time, especially in the elderly, will depend upon just how well the broken neck injury is taken care of whilst they are in broken neck rehab at home.

The single most important consideration when wondering can you recover from a broken neck? Is that you absolutely must have proper rest. This doesn’t mean sitting up in a chair watching TV or eating snacks. With a broken back, for the first few weeks, you need absolute bed rest, and your neck needs to be as immobile as it possibly can. The more of this kind of rest you get at the start, the quicker your neck bones will begin to heal.

Rehabilitation for broken neck injuries begins at home. Once you are on the road to recovery, your doctor will more than likely recommend some broken neck rehab exercises that you can do, to begin building a little strength in your neck, without causing any further injury.

If you suspect that any of the complications mentioned further down this page have occurred whilst you are recuperating from a broken neck at home, you absolutely must call your doctor straight away.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

You might be able to claim some other form of free private medical assistance for your broken neck, some form of free medical supplies such as a high-quality broken neck brace.

If you give us a call and let us know your postcode, we can let you know almost immediately whether we think there might be some free health care available in your area to help you recover faster.

Follow Up for a Broken Neck

As you will likely be staying in the hospital for at least the first couple of weeks if you have fractured your neck, then the first follow up appointment won’t be until around a month after the injury occurred.

If you have a serious fracture, you might be picked up in an ambulance and take to the first few follow up appointments. Expect to have a number of x-rays taken each time you have to visit the hospital so that the doctor can check your broken neck is healing properly.

How Long Does a Broken Neck Take to Heal?

The answer to the question, how long does it take to recover from a broken neck? Entirely depends upon firstly, how severe the fracture is, and secondly, your age and general level of health. Young people, who have suffered a minor compression fracture will have to wear a cervical brace for around 6 to 8 weeks. Once the brace comes off, they will need to undergo extensive physiotherapy to complete their broken neck rehabilitation.

At the other end of the scale, elderly or frail people that have suffered a serious compound fracture of the neck may need to stay immobilised for anything up to 3 months. The full broken neck healing time will be much longer, several years in the most extreme cases.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

A fractured neck is a very serious injury, nobody, not even the youngest, fittest people with the most minor of fractures, recover in less than 3 months. For most people, full rehabilitation after broken neck takes much longer. Once way that recovery time can be reduced is by having access to some expert private physiotherapy.

Although you likely cannot afford to pay for this kind of private physio, we might be able to arrange some for free for you. Depending on where you live, there might be an offer of free private physiotherapy available to you. Give us a call and let us know your postcode, we can then tell you if free private physio is available to you.

What is the Prognosis for a Broken Neck?

In order to discuss broken neck prognosis then it needs to be understood that the full range of recovery is very wide. For minor fractures, younger people may make a 100% recovery, with no long-term effects. For more severe injuries that have damaged the nerves of the neck and the spinal cord, then the prognosis could be permanent paralysis of the arms, legs or both. In the most extreme of all cases, the patient will be left entirely paralysed from the neck downwards and will need constant ongoing care in their home.

Overall, as long as there are no complications with the neck fracture, and there has been no nerve is spinal cord damage, most people recover from a broken neck fully within 3 months to 1 year depending on their age.

What are the Possible Complications of a Broken Neck?

There are a number of complications which can occur whilst a person is recovering from a broken neck, especially for serious injuries such as compound fractures. Typical complications include:

  • Damage to the spinal column – even once a bone has been set back in place to begin healing, it could still slip and damage the spinal cord. This is one of the main reasons why people who suffer a fractured neck are kept in hospital and fully immobilised for the first week or two.
  • Infection – specifically infection following surgery to realign the fractured neck bones and insert internal fixations. This is a particularly risky complication, as the infection is so close to the brain stem.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

Have you been treated for a fractured neck, and suspected that your doctor has made a mistake, or overlooked something? If you do suspect such medical malpractice, then you need to educate yourself about your injury. All of these websites below have published further information related to fractured neck injuries:

Cervical Spine (Neck)Fracture Information – St George’s University Hospitals

What is Traction? – South Tees Hospitals

Guide to Wearing Your Cervical Hard Collar – Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Neck?

There can be some very serious long-term health effects attached to a fractured neck. This is a very serious injury, one from which recovery is difficult if there has been nerve or spinal cord damage. The main long-term health effects of a broken neck are:

Paralysis – this could range from complete paralysis from the neck downwards, to minor paralysis of one or more limbs. The level of paralysis depends entirely on how badly the spinal cord was damaged when the neck was fractured.

Loss of feeling – or other strange sensations such as pins and needles and cold in the hands, feet or other parts of the body. This is caused by nerve damage to the nerves which attach to the spinal cord close to the neck.

Chronic pain – this is an especially common long-term health effect of a broken neck when a compound fracture has been treated using internal fixation. The screws, plates and rods may be left in permanently, and they can be a cause of constant pain. Pain management is the only effective treatment if the fixations cannot be removed safely through surgery.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

If you have recently suffered a fractured neck, and are not in recovery, then you should contact us to find out if there is any free private medical treatment in your area which could help you recover better and faster.

You may be able to get some free medical supplies, such as a broken neck brace. You might have access to a free expert orthopaedic assessment of the broken bone report for your fractured neck. We might even be able to find you some high-quality free physiotherapy to help you rehabilitate from your broken neck faster. Call us now, and once we know your postcode we will be able to tell you if there are any offers of free private medical treatment that you could be eligible for in your area.