The most serious risk associated with spinal injury is damage to the spinal cord.
Such damage can cause a loss of power and/or sensation below the injured area.
Suspect spinal damage if the casualty has had abnormal forces exerted on his back or neck, and particularly if he complains of any changes in sensation or difficulties with movement.
Follow these simple steps to help:
• Reassure the casualty and advise them not to move. Call 999/112 for emergency help or ask a helper to do this.
• Kneel or lie behind the casualty’s head. Rest your elbows on the ground or on your knees to keep your arms steady. Grasp the sides of the casualty’s head. Spread your fingers so that you do not cover their ears – they need to be able to hear you. Steady and support their neck in this neutral position in which the head, neck and spine are aligned.
• Ask a helper to place rolled up towels, blankets or items of clothing on either side of the casualty’s head and neck, while you keep their head in the neutral position. Continue to support their head until the emergency services take over, no matter how long this may be.
• Get your helper to monitor and record vital signs – level of response, breathing and pulse – while waiting for help.
Do not move the casualty unless:
• They are in danger.
• They are unconscious and you need to place them in the recovery position.
• You need to maintain an open airway.
• For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website (www.sja.org.uk) offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 0303 003 0101.
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