Neck Injuries



A neck fracture is caused by trauma to the neck from:

  • Falls
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Diving into shallow water
  • Severe and sudden twist to the neck
  • Severe blows to the head or neck

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of a fracture are:

  • Doing activities that involve heights, such as being on a ladder, bike, or horse
  • Playing contact sports, such as football, rugby, or ice hockey
  • Not wearing a seatbelt or safety gear for sports
  • Health problems that result in falls, such as weak muscles
  • Being around violence



Symptoms may be:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Weakness or loss of feeling in the arms or legs


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. An exam will be done that focuses on the neck. It will also look for nerve damage.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan



A neck fracture is a severe injury that can lead to paralysis or death. It depends which bones are broken and whether there is spinal cord injury. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone. Options may be:

  • Medicine to ease pain
  • A brace or collar to keep the neck in line as a minor fracture heals
  • A stiff brace or halo vest to treat more severe fractures
  • Exercises to help with muscle strength and range of motion


Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. Surgery may be done using plates, screws, or wires to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place.


Most fractures are due to accidents. Always wear a seatbelt. Healthy muscles may also prevent some injuries. This may be done through exercise.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.