Spinal injuries are usually very serious and can easily be made worse if dealt with incorrectly. If you suspect a spinal injury, handle the casualty with extreme care and do not move them unless they are in immediate danger. Wait until medical help arrives.
Symptoms and signs of spinal injury
- Pain at site of impact or just below it
- Loss of feeling in the spine or legs
- Tingling or “pins and needles” in hands or feet
- Loss of or reduced movement below site of impact or injury
- Weakness, difficulty walking or even paralysis
- Bullet, stab or any inflicted wound
- Traumatic injuries to parts of the body, for example, in a car accident, spots accident or fall
- Electric shock, extreme twisting of middle of the body
- Any other high-impact accidents
First Aid for Spinal Injuries
1. Immobilize patient
Do not move the patient unless he or she is in immediate danger. If they are conscious, talk to them and ask where and how it hurts. Ask them to remain as still as possible and not to move their body.
2. Monitor lifeline
Ensure the patient’s airway is clear and is able to breathe unassisted. If the patient is unconscious, carefully put them in the recovery position and follow DRABC.
For conscious patients, continually monitor their airway, breathing and circulation until help arrives. Be prepared to give CPR if the patient loses consciousness.
3. Provide head and neck support
The first priority is to provide support to the patients head and neck. If patient is seated, such as in a car, position yourself behind them and place your hands firmly but gently on either side of their head to provide support. Ask for assistance to apply a support collar or use padding to improvise support for their head and minimize movement of the patient’s neck.
4. Reassure patient
Calm and reassure the patient whilst you assess any other injuries and provide any required First Aid.
5. Call for medical assistance
Call for help as soon as the patient is immobilized and has head and neck support.
Understand: It’s actually possible for a person to break their neck or back but still not sustain any spinal injury as long as the “vertebrae” or the bones around the spinal cord are not damaged.
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