Cervical Spine Ligament Injury
What is the cervical spine?
The cervical spine is the upper seven
vertebrae of your spine. The spine holds the
spinal cord in place so that breathing,
movement, and feeling can happen in your
What are cervical spine ligaments?
Ligaments connect bone to bone. Spine
ligaments hold the vertebrae of the spinal
column in place. They protect the bones and
nerves that make up the vertebrae and spinal
cord. The neck is an exposed part of the
body, which puts these very important
ligaments at risk. There is a need for extra
care to keep the spine safe when they are
What is a cervical spine ligament injury?
When your body receives an impact that is
fast and hard, the movement pulls the
ligaments that are around the spine and
causes injury. It can cause either stretching
or tearing of the ligament. You will be told
you have either a sprain/strain or a tear of
the ligament after tests show what has
occurred. With both injuries, you will have
pain and swelling, but a tear will be more
painful, and more serious.
What tests will I need?
X-rays and a physical exam will be
done to look for ligament injury.
In some cases, an MRI may be done.
How is it treated?
Based on your injury, you may
Be treated in a cervical collar, called
a PMT collar.
Need a halo vest to keep your head
and shoulders steady and not moving.
What should I expect while in the hospital?
When you get to the hospital, special care of
the spine will be taken until the extent of the
injury is known. A doctor will check your
neck in a safe way that protects your neck.
You will have Spine imaging (X-ray, CT
and/or MRI) to check for any fractures or
ligament injuries. Once your doctor has the
results of these tests, your treatment plan
will be discussed.
With a cervical spine ligament injury your
neck collar will stay in place.
A rehabilitation plan will be started which
will include Physical and Occupational
Physical therapy will work with you on how
to move safely by yourself or with the help
of a mobility device. They will teach you
movements you should do that will help you
regain your strength in a safe way.
Occupational therapy will help you find safe
ways to do the things you must do for
yourself each day, such as bathing and
dressing. They will also help nursing staff to
teach a family member how to care for your
neck collar at home.
Restrictions while in your collar will
ξ No lifting greater than 10 pounds
ξ No raising your arms above your
ξ No driving.
When you can go home, you will be told
how to safely care for your injury.
Appointments will be set up for you to
continue care in the clinic if needed.
Why must I be cautious?
Further injury can occur to the bones in the
spine or the spinal cord if the neck is not
well supported with a collar while the
ligaments are healing. This is why it is vital
to follow your doctor’s orders and wear your
collar at all times.
How long will the treatment take?
Your doctors will decide how long your
injury needs to be treated.
Call if you have problems after you leave
ξ Patients of the Neurosurgery Spine
and Orthopedic Spine Clinic: Call
ξ After hours, on weekends, and
holidays call UW Hospital Paging
Operator at (608)262-0486. Ask for
the Neurosurgery or Orthopedic
Spine doctor on call. Give your
name and phone number with area
code to the operator. A health care
provider will call you back.
ξ If you live out of the area, call 1-
800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6929.