Forces on the cervical spine


For the bony vertebrae to be injured, several common forces usually occur in isolation or in combination.

In particular, rotation and flexion are well recognised in causing spinal cord injury, particularly of the neck.

Damage to the spinal cord may occur without fracture (breaking) of the bones themselves.

In this case, the spinal cord is damaged because the stability of the spine is compromised as the various ligaments, tendons and muscles which prevent excessive movement of one vertebra on another are disrupted.

Rotation1 Rotation2

A hyper-extension injury commonly occurs in motor vehicle accidents when the vehicle comes to an abrupt stop during a collision.

The head travels abruptly backwards on the neck causing damage to the delicate spinal cord.

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A lateral flexion injury can also damage the spinal cord, with or without fracture of the bones in the neck.


Vertical compression can also cause spinal cord injury. This can be as the result of a force or weight being dropped on the top of the head, or by the head impacting the ground or the bottom of a pool, river or beach when diving into water.

This force can also cause affected vertebrae to shatter or burst apart.

Compression1 Compression2 Compression3

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