What To Do If Someone Has A Spinal Cord Injury – First Aid Training – St John Ambulance

When someone has a spinal injury the greatest risk is the spinal cord may be temporarily or permanently damaged. If a casualty suffered an abnormal force to the neck or back and is complaining of changes in sensation or difficulty in moving they could have a spinal injury. You must take care not to unnecessarily move their head neck or spine. Some of the following incidents could indicate a possible spinal injury: They could have fallen from a height such as from a ladder. fallen awkwardly when doing gymnastics, from diving into a shallow pool and hitting the bottom a collapsed rugby scrum, falling awkwardly from a horse or motorbike. They could have experienced sudden deacceleration in a car, had an injury to the head or face, or had a heavy object fall across their back. If you suspect someone has a spinal injury there are several key things to look for. They may have pain and neck or back where the injury occurred, have bruising and tenderness in the skin over the spine and irregular twist in the normal curve of the spine, have breathing difficulties, loss of bladder and/or bowel control. They may lose control of their limbs may lose sensation or have abnormal sensations, such as tingling or burning or their limbs feel stiff heavy or clumsy. If you think they have a spinal injury reassure the casualty and advise them not to move. Call 999 or 112 for emergency help. You should then kneel or lie behind the casualty’s head, rest your elbows on the ground on your knees to help keep your arm steady. Hold the side of the head with your fingers spread so they either not covered and they can still hear you. Support the head in this position so the head, neck and spine aligned While you support the head as a helper place rolled up blankets, towels or clothes on either side of the casualty’s head. Make sure you continue to hold this position until emergency help arrives. Do not move the casualty from the position that you found them in unless they are in immediate danger and it’s safe for you to do so. Monitor their level of response until help arrives. If they become unresponsive at any point prepared to treat an unresponsive casualty So remember, if you suspected a spinal injury reassure them and call 999 or 112. Don’t move them, support their head and neck until help arrives. And that’s how you help someone with a spinal injury If this video has been helpful to you help support St John Ambulance by going to sja.org.uk/donate.


  1. what will you do if the patient who has a spinal injury bacome breathless or pulseless.. can you do cpr despite of the injury he/she has..

  2. In the video, the patient is in a neutral body position (flat, straight and facing upwards). But what if their head was slightly tilted to the side? Would you keep it tilted to the side or re allign?

  3. What if the injured person is in a dangerous area and you have to move him/her away alone, how do you do that? How do you safely move the injured person and still keep his/her head stable?

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