The spinal cord contains the nerves that carry messages between your brain and body. The cord passes through your neck and back. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can cause loss of movement (paralysis) below the site of the injury.
A spinal cord injury may be caused by:
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include:
Never move anyone who you think may have a spinal injury, unless it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you need to get the person out of a burning car.)
Keep the person absolutely still and safe until medical help arrives.
If the person is not alert or responding to you:
Do not roll the person over unless the person is vomiting or choking on blood, or you need to check for breathing. If you need to roll the person over:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call you local emergency number (such as 911) if you think someone has a spinal cord injury. DO NOT move the person unless there is urgent danger.
The following may lower your risk of spinal injury:
Hockberger RS, Kaji AH, Newton E. Spinal injuries. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 40.
Torg JS. Cervical Spine Injuries: 1. Cervical Spine Injuries in the Adult. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 16, section A.
Pizzutillo PD, Herman MJ. Cervical Spine Injuries: 2. Cervical Spine Injuries in the Child. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 16, section A.
Review Date: 5/2/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.