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What Is Cervical Trauma?

An X-ray of the neck, including the cervical vertebrae.
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  • Written By: K. Willis
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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Cervical trauma is damage caused to the cervical area of the neck or spine, or to a cervix, which is a constricted area of the body such as the neck of a tooth or the cervix of the uterus. The term "cervical trauma," however, most commonly refers to injuries of the neck and spine. Cervical trauma relating to the back and neck has a wide variety of causes. The most common forms of trauma to the cervix of the uterus are trauma sustained during childbirth and trauma from sexual activities.

The human spine has 24 vertebrae, categorized into three sections. The cervical spine contains seven vertebrae and is the section of spine that connects the base of the skull to the trunk and shoulders, or thoracic area. The cervical muscles and other soft tissue support and give mobility and flexibility to this part of the body.

Inappropriate methods of moving and lifting objects are among the most common causes of trauma to the neck and back. Lifting or attempting to move objects that are too heavy or have an awkward shape can result in instant pain and discomfort. This often leads to restricted and painful movement, usually because of muscle strain or ligament strain.

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Improper moving and handling of any object, of any size or weight, over extended periods of time can result in serious cervical trauma. The muscles and discs of the cervical region sustain small increments of damage over an extended period, with the person quite often not noticing any discomfort or inflexibility for many years. Cervical pain and injury because of work-related trauma is the biggest cause of health-related absence within the nursing and care staff professions. In many cases, the period of absence exceeds six months. These injuries are from staff members lifting and supporting patients in improper, often because of a lack of hoisting equipment and mobility aids.

Various cervical trauma-related injuries are seen in athletes. The most frequent sports-related cervical traumas are strain and sprain injuries to the neck. A cervical sprain is damage caused to the ligament and capsular structures that connect the cervical facet joints and the vertebrae. With cervical sprain injuries, pain is a very common symptom, with patients feeling pain and discomfort in the muscles of the back.

Cervical strains are muscle injuries. They occur when the muscle or muscle tendon is overloaded or stretched beyond capacity. Minimizing the risks of both strain and sprain injuries, especially when related to physical activity, involves conditioning and preparing the body with a warm-up routine before participating in vigorous physical activity.

Accidents, especially vehicular accidents, cause a condition commonly known as whiplash, which is a form of cervical trauma. Whiplash is an acute neck sprain. It involves the head being thrown backward or forward in a violent manner.

One of the most serious instances of cervical trauma is a fracture or break of the cervical spine. Fractures or breaks of the cervical spine can result in partial or total paralysis or even death. A person with a neck injury should never be moved except by trained professionals, because incorrectly moving a person with a fracture of the cervical spine can worsen the injury. Cervical fractures often are caused by an act that forces or compresses the cervical spine into the shoulders. Aside from vehicular accidents, one of the most common causes of cervical fractures is an improper American football tackling technique known as spearing, which involves a player bending forward to use the top of the helmet to ram an opponent.

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