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An overview of cervical spine injuries

The cervical spine is the topmost portion of the spine and comprises seven vertebrae in the neck, which are designated C1 to C7. New Jersey residents should be aware that injuries to this area are the most severe.

Injuries to the C1 to C4 spinal nerves can lead to quadriplegia, which is limited or absent feeling or movement below the shoulders or neck. This may be accompanied by the inability to breathe on one's own, uncontrollable bowel or bladder movements and potential speech impairment.

When the C5 nerve is injured, people may be able to raise their arms or bend their elbows but will likely suffer paralysis of their wrists, hands, trunk and legs. Injuries to the C6 nerve may affect wrist extension only slightly but will also result in paralysis. Those with C7 nerve injuries can normally straighten their arms and move their shoulders.

Patients are usually treated with steroid and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling (a frequent cause of secondary damage) and surgery. Afterward, they undergo rehabilitation to regain some level of autonomy over their non-paralyzed body parts.

When the C1 to C4 nerves are damaged, patients require 24-hour-a-day personal care but may use powered wheelchairs to move. The rest will still require daily living assistance. Those with C6 or C7 injuries may drive an adapted vehicle.

Individuals who sustain back injuries at work will want to speak with a lawyer. Perhaps there is proof that the employer's negligence contributed to the accident, in which case victims can file a personal injury claim and be covered for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. They can leave it to their attorneys to gather proof and negotiate for settlements. If there is no proof of negligence, victims can file for workers' compensation.

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