Cervical Subluxation

Cervical subluxation is a separation of the neck bones (cervical vertebrae). The cervical vertebrae are made up of 7 bones. These vertebrae support your head and also protect the spinal cord as it passes through the neck.


Cervical subluxation can have many causes, including:

  • Injury or trauma with sudden impact such as a:

  • Car accident. This is the most common cause of cervical subluxation.

  • Sports injury.

  • Fall accident.

  • Violent physical attack.


  • Cervical subluxation symptoms vary. The amount of pain, damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots is determined by the severity and angle of separation to the cervical vertebrae.

  • Neck pain or tenderness with touch.

  • Neck pain with movement.

  • Headaches.

  • Stiff neck.

  • Difficulty moving your neck.

  • Neck muscle spasms.

  • With spinal cord or nerve root injury in the neck, symptoms may also include:

  • Arm or leg weakness and numbness.

  • Weak hand grasp. This may cause you to drop objects.

  • Poor handwriting.

  • Difficulty with balance or falls.

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control.


Cervical subluxation is diagnosed through:

  • Physical exam and history.

  • Imaging scans that take pictures of your neck. These can include:

  • X-rays.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


A neck injury is very serious. Depending on how bad the injury is, treatment options include:

  • Nonsurgical treatments, such as:

  • Wearing a neck brace or collar to support the neck. This limits how much you can move your neck.

  • Medicine to reduce pain and swelling.

  • Closed reduction. This is a method of physical manipulation to realign the cervical vertebrae without having surgery.

  • Surgical treatment. Surgery may be needed to put the cervical vertebrae back in place. Prior to surgery, skeletal traction may be used. Skeletal traction uses weights, pulleys and ropes to exert a pulling force to help re-align the cervical vertebrae before surgery. Surgery of the cervical vertebrae is needed if:

  • The cervical vertebrae are unstable. This means the cervical vertebrae do not stay in place and move easily.

  • There is a lot of nerve damage in the cervical vertebrae area.

  • There is a spinal cord injury.

  • There is a pocket of blood over the spinal cord.

  • There is a cervical disc pushing on the spinal cord.


  • Wear a neck collar as told by your caregiver. Ask how long you will need to wear it.

  • Rest and limit neck movement as told by your caregiver.

  • Limit physical activity as told by your caregiver. Ask when you can return to normal physical activity.

  • If you had surgery on your neck, be sure you know how to care for the incision site. Ask your caregiver how to care for the incision site.

  • You may need physical therapy to help strengthen your neck and help you heal faster.

  • Take all medicines as told by your caregiver.

  • Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments.


  • You have any questions about the medicine you are taking.

  • You have clear fluid coming from the incision site .

  • The incision site becomes red or tender to touch.

  • The incision site starts to open up.

  • Your pain continues and does not get better after taking pain pills.

  • You have numbness or weakness in your neck.

  • You develop a fever of more than 100.5° F (38.1° C).


  • You have sudden, severe neck pain.

  • You have sudden, severe weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs.

  • You have difficulty walking, or you are falling without reason.

  • You have a severe headache that does not go away.

  • You cannot control your bowel or bladder.

  • Your neck incision is in the front of your neck and your neck starts to swell and you have trouble breathing.

  • You have pus (purulent) drainage coming from your incision site.

  • You develop a fever of more than 102° F (38.9° C).