Since the spinal cord consists of nerves which carry messages from the brain to the body and vice versa, injury at any point in its course through the canal formed by the vertebrae is potentially serious. Fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae can cause loss of movement and sensitivity in those parts of the body below the point of injury. Damage may be caused directly, by a blow to the spine, or indirectly, by landing heavily on the feet or buttocks. Whiplash injury to the neck (when the neck is flung violently backwards or Onwards) is common in car accidents and falls from motorbikes.
The casualty may complain of severe pain in the back or of feeling ‘cut in half’. There may be loss of feeling and control in the limbs supplied by the nerves below the level of the injury. With lower back injuries, bladder or bowel control may be lost. In such cases, the aim of first aid is to prevent further injury. Inability to move fingers or toes is an indication that the spine may be injured. Do not move the person unless he or she is in immediate, serious danger. Prevent movement by placing rolled blankets alongside the head and trunk – cover with coats or blankets and give comfort and reassurance. Dial 911.