The cervical spine is composed of seven bony segments. They connect the skull above with the chest and thoracic spine below. Because there is such a great degree of mobility of the cervical spine, it is subject to many types of injuries. Hyperflexion injuries develop when the spine is suddenly bent forward. This produces compression of the structures of the front of the spine, including the vertebral bodies and the intervertebral discs. In addition, the back of the spine, which is composed of the lamina, joints and associated ligaments, is distracted or pulled apart. Frequently, hyperflexion injuries of the cervical spine are associated with axial loading, or compression, of the vertebral column. All types of hyperflexion injuries can lead fractures and dislocations of the cervical spine. Unfortunately, this is all too commonly associated with injuries to the nerves or spinal cord.
Causes of Cervical Spine, Hyperflexion Injury
Trauma is the leading cause of hyperflexion injuries of the cervical spine. When the head is also struck on the top and the spine compressed, additional forces are placed on the bones of the spine. Frequently, this type of injury is associated with fracture-dislocations that damage or destroy the spinal cord. At times, hyperflexion injuries may produce an acute ruptured disc. The disc material can irritate or compress the nerves or spinal cord and produce pain or other neurological symptoms. Hyperflexion injuries may be unstable. That is, the bones and ligaments that are integral for maintaining the normal alignment of the spine are damaged or destroyed. Movement can lead to abnormal motion of the spine and damage to the underlying nervous system.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Spine, Hyperflexion Injury
Hyperflexion injuries of the cervical spine produce neck pain, muscle spasm and rigidity of the neck. If the nerves exiting the spine are injured, various degrees of weakness, numbness or pain commonly involve portions of the upper extremities. When the spinal cord is affected, similar loss of function can involve not only the arms, but also the legs, the bladder, the bowel and sexual function.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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