The seven bones in the neck are commonly known as the cervical vertebrae. Those bones support our head and allow us to move our neck in all directions. A fracture, or break, in one of the cervical vertebrae is commonly called a broken neck. A cervical fracture is usually the result of some high-energy trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall. Athletes who participate in contact sports are also at risk.
Typical symptoms of a cervical fracture include numbness and or pain in the neck or down into the arm. Also, any sensation of instability should be assessed following a traumatic accident.
Any injury to the cervical vertebrae can have serious consequences because the spinal cord and the nerves that supplies information to the neck and arms run through these vertebrae. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down.
What to expect from physical therapy
Treatment will depend on what medical diagnosis has been determined. If a fracture is present, commonly found though a series of X-ray images, the neck may be stabilized with a brace for a number of weeks in order for adequate healing to occur.
More serve fractures can require surgical fixation.
Physical therapy will focus on controlling any pain that may be present following the injury and restoring motion and mobility once the injury has healed. Your therapist will also assess posture and functional mobility to prevent future onset of symptoms, and may instruct you in an individualized home exercise program to regain any loss in strength or endurance.