Spinal injuries can be life-changing although it may not be possible to tell at the time. The severity of the damage is often affected by the treatment that is given immediately after the trauma occurs. That’s why it is important you know what to do.
What Classifies As A Spinal Injury
In most cases, a spinal injury is due to trauma. You may have a fall at work or be hit by a car. If the impact occurs on your spine then the bones and vertebrae can be damaged. In turn, this can force bone fragments into your nerves which can damage them or even sever them.
In short, any injury to the spinal area or neck should be considered a spinal injury and needs to be treated properly. The higher the injury the greater the level of damage is likely to be.
How To Tell A Spinal Injury
The most obvious sign that there could be a spinal injury is when they have a head injury and are drifting in and out of consciousness.
However, they may also say they have severe pain in their neck or back or that their body feels weak, numb, or they are unable to move a limb.
Of course, if their body is lying in an unnatural position or you know they had a direct hit to their spine, then a spinal injury is likely.
Your Immediate Response
You are not looking to perform surgery, that’s for the qualified and experienced spine surgeon. But, you do need to appreciate that movement can make the condition worse.
Providing the injured person is in a safe place then you need to call the emergency services first. Give them all the details that you know and tell them you think they have injured their spine.
You will then want to stop the person from moving. Roll up towels or sheets and position them on both sides of the person’s neck. You can also position towels around their body, particularly near their spine. This will stop them from moving their neck or back.
Monitor the Patient
You need to monitor your patient. They may drift in and out of consciousness and you should try to keep them conscious by talking to them.
If they aren’t breathing then you can perform CPR. However, you mustn’t move their head back as you usually would. Instead, you should pull their jaw gently forward and breathe for them. If their heart has stopped you can do chest compressions as normal.
Roll With Another
The only reason to roll a patient with a suspected spinal injury is that they are vomiting.
If this is the case you’ll need another person. One of you needs to be at the head and the other at the side. You roll slowly and together to ensure their head, neck, and back remain aligned.
Once the emergency services arrive you can step back and let them take care of the patient. They will use a neck collar and spinal board to minimize movement and get them to the hospital as quickly as possible.