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Cervical fracture fixation is performed to restore alignment of the cervical spine following trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, fall or sporting injury. The cervical spine supports the head and connects it to the shoulders and body. A fracture, in one of the cervical vertebrae (C1 to C7)can damage the spinal cord and cause pain, limited range of motion, muscle weakness, abnormal sensation (such as numbness and pins and needles) or even total paralysis.

Depending on the type of fracture and its location in the cervical spine will depend on the type of treatment. A minor compression fracture can be treated with a cervical brace (often called a halo brace) worn for 6 to 8 weeks to stabilise the spine until the bone heals. A more complex or extensive fracture may require:
  • Traction – set of mechanisms for straightening fractured bones using either skin traction or skeletal traction.
  • Open reduction, internal fixation using permanent rigid prosthesis e.g. rods, plates or screws. This includes C1-C2 screwfixation, occipitocervical plate fixation, and lateral-masslower cervical plating.
  • Fusion of the vertebrae.
  • Wiring techniques
An individual with an unstable fracture is at risk for spinal cord injury unless the fracture is stabilized. Fractures often occur in conjunction with dislocations in which the vertebral segments become dislodged and the overall alignment of the spine changes.

Passive stretch of the trapezius muscle in the neck by experienced therapistAbove: Passive stretch of the trapezius muscle in the neck by experienced therapist

Types of unstable fractures include:
  • Jeffersons – also known as a burst fracture of C1. About 50% of patients survive this injury without any lasting damage to the nerves.
  • Flexion teardrop–most severe injury of the cervical spine resulting from severe flexion force causing compression of the spinal cord and often resulting in quadriplegia.
  • Extension teardrop–hyperextension causing tearing away of the C2 vertebral body.
  • Bilateral locked facets - is a relatively common unstable injury of the cervical spine. Severe neurologic deficit often is present due to marked narrowing of the spinal canal.
Recent advances in surgical management of cervical fractures involve internal fixation with metal screws or plates which help stabilise the vertebrae. Surgery and earlier mobilisation can optimise rehabilitation after a cervical fracture leading to improvements in functional activities. Indication for surgery will depend on the type of fracture (wedge compression fracture-dislocation or unstable) and location of the fracture.

A fracture of the cervical spine can result in damage to the spinal cord causing muscle weakness, loss of sensation and reduced functional ability with everyday tasks. At, we offer physiotherapy for spinal cord injuries.

Physiotherapy after a cervical fracture fixation

Our physiotherapists at provide individualised treatment following a cervical fracture fixation. Your rehabilitation will depend on the type of surgery you received. Common symptoms that we treat following cervical fracture fixation include:
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of movement
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Reduced ability with everyday activities
Your physiotherapistat will look at how your current symptoms are affecting everyday activities in an initial assessment. A structured rehabilitation programme will be devised between you and your physiotherapist, which will incorporate short and long term treatment goals in order to assess your progress and maximise your potential following your surgery. Physiotherapy may include:
  • Ice and ultrasoundto reduce pain and any swelling.
  • Advice about certain positions of the spine – to increase comfort by relieving pressure off the affected areas while you are sleeping and sitting.
  • Advice about certain types of movements – to increase your confidence when moving with less pain.
  • Structured exercise programme tailored to your functional and sporting exercises
  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility of the neck and reduce pain.
  • Active and passive range of movement exercises such as bending, straightening and rotating the neck to prevent soft tissue from shortening.
  • Isometric strengthening of the neck muscles and the ‘core’ abdominal muscles
  • Low impact aerobic exercises such as walking and stationary cycling
  • Ergonomic assessment to assist the way you move at work or at home.
It is important to commence physiotherapy as soon as possible to rebuild your strength and flexibility and promote your recovery in a safe and effective way.

At we provide individualised physiotherapy treatment to optimise your potential with the activities important to you by improving your range of movement, muscle strength, general fitness and function. Your physiotherapist at will support and guide you through your rehabilitation programme to ensure that you are safe and confident at returning to normal activities.

Call now on 0330 088 7800 for more information or to book an appointment please contact us.

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