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First Aid: Head, Neck, and Spine Injuries

neck pain

Head, Neck, and Spine Injuries


You should be concerned for potential head, neck, or spinal cord injuries with any traumatic event. There is a potential risk for serious injury including paralysis if treated inappropriately. Common mechanisms of injury that produce head, neck, and spine injuries are falls from height, blows to the head, diving injuries, electrocutions, car crashes, and other significant traumatic events.

You should suspect these injuries if a victim is unresponsive, is confused, vomits, complains of a headache, has vision problems, has difficultly walking or moving a part of the body, or has a seizure. Victims may also have tingling or complain or strange sensations in their body. Any person who is under of the influence of alcohol or drugs should be assumed to have a head, neck, or spine injury after a traumatic event as they may not feel pain or report pain appropriately.

If you suspect a victim has a head, neck, or spine injury you should take steps to attempt to limit further injury. Immoderately call 911 and get additional resources. Tell the victim to lay still and not to move.

Hold the victims head so the head and neck does not move or twist. When speaking to the victim rescuers should stand where the victim can see them so they do not out of reflex attempt to move their head to see the person speaking to them. Also, remind the victim to verbally answer “Yes or No” instead of shaking their head.

If the victim is in danger, vomits, or goes unresponsive a priority should be placed on treating those problems over protecting their head, neck, and spine. You must treat life threats first. If the person needs moved due to danger or is vomiting attempt to move the person in a straight line when possible. You may be able to roll the person while holding the head if needed with the help of a second rescuer.