Information for the public
About this information
NICE guidelines provide advice on the care and support that should be offered to people who use health and care services.
The spine (or backbone) is made up of a series of small bones that run down the centre of the back. A bundle of nerves called the spinal cord runs through the spine, carrying messages from the brain to the rest of the body. If someone badly injures their spine, such as with a break (or fracture), their spinal cord can become damaged. This can cause serious long‑term problems, including disability (such as losing the ability to walk) and paralysis (where the person is unable to move or feel all or part of their body). However, having pain or an injury in the spine doesn't necessarily mean that the spinal cord is damaged.
This information is for people who have, or may have, injured their spine because of a serious event such as a road traffic accident, a fall, a violent attack, or a sports injury. It is also for family members and carers of people who have (or may have) injured their spine.
The information describes our advice about how spinal injury should be assessed and managed in the early stages (as set out in the NICE guideline on spinal injury). It does not cover spinal injury that is caused by disease. We also have information explaining our advice on major trauma (a serious injury that could cause permanent disability or death) and complex fractures (complicated breaks in bones which usually need care by a specialist team). Details of how to get to this information can be found in other NICE guidance.