Can a head or neck injury lead to spinal cord damage?

When most people think of how spinal cord injuries develop, back trauma comes to mind. This might result from a fall, a car crash or blunt force during an attack. Even a bullet during an assault might cause spinal cord damage, but what about when the initial damage occurs to the head or neck?

Mayo Clinic confirms that any individual who suffers serious trauma to the neck or head might face spinal cord injuries. It recommends immediate medical evaluation in these instances.

Emergency signs and symptoms

Mayo Clinic warns that, if you experience any of these symptoms, you might need immediate medical attention:

  • Muscle weakness and difficulty coordinating body movements
  • Difficulty maintaining balance while walking or standing
  • Loss of control over bowel movements and bladder
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in the extremities
  • Twisted neck in an unnatural or odd position
  • Difficult breathing

What to do

The symptoms above might not become immediately apparent. Because of this, even if they develop later on, seek medical attention. Your first instinct might be to move the person or encourage them to move, but avoid this whenever possible. Encourage the person to remain perfectly still while you call 911.

If you know how to do so, you may administer basic first-aid care or simply hold the head or neck in place to discourage movement. Note that the person might become disoriented and not understand the need to stay still.

With early treatment and rehabilitation, the person may recover full function. However, partial or complete paralysis is also possible. Moving the injured person increases the risk.