First aid treatment for spinal injury

The essential guide to first aid treatment for spinal injury

In moments of crisis, knowing how to administer first aid for spinal injuries can be the difference between life and death. Spinal injuries are serious and potentially life-altering, making it crucial to understand the proper procedures for providing immediate care. In this blog, Dr Richard Dune delves into the importance of first aid for spinal injuries, key definitions, relevant legislation, best practices, and essential recommendations.

Key facts and statistics

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people suffer from spinal cord injuries globally every year.
  • In the UK alone, around 2,500 people sustain spinal cord injuries annually, as reported by the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA).
  • Spinal injuries can result from various incidents, including falls, sports injuries, and vehicle accidents.

Key definitions

  • Spinal cord -The bundle of nerves that runs down the middle of the back and carries signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
  • Spinal injury - Damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal, often resulting in loss of function, sensation, or paralysis.

Relevant legislation, regulations, and best practice

  • The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (UK) require employers to provide adequate first aid equipment, facilities, and personnel in the workplace.
  • The Resuscitation Council UK provides guidelines on managing spinal injuries, emphasising immobilisation and seeking immediate medical assistance.
  • Best practice dictates that anyone providing first aid for a suspected spinal injury should prioritise immobilisation of the injured person's head and neck to prevent further damage.

Recognising a spinal injury

  • Signs and symptoms may include severe pain in the neck or back, weakness, numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the limbs.
  • Any incident involving a fall from height, significant trauma, or impact to the head or back should raise suspicion of a spinal injury.

Administering first aid

  • Assessment - Approach the injured person cautiously and assess the situation for any immediate dangers. If the person is conscious, ask them not to move and reassure them that help is on the way.
  • Immobilisation - Stabilise the head and neck by placing your hands on either side of the person's head, keeping it in line with their body. Avoid moving the person unless absolutely necessary.
  • Seek medical assistance - Call emergency services immediately and provide them with detailed information about the injury and the person's condition. Do not attempt to move the person unless instructed by medical professionals.


  • Ensure all workplace first aiders are trained in recognising and responding to spinal injuries.
  • Regularly review and update first aid protocols and equipment to align with current guidelines and best practices.
  • Encourage employees to participate in first aid training courses to enhance their knowledge and confidence in handling emergency situations.


Spinal injuries demand swift and decisive action. By understanding the importance of first aid treatment, recognising key signs and symptoms, and adhering to best practices, individuals can play a crucial role in minimising the impact of spinal injuries and potentially saving lives.

Empower yourself and your team with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively to emergencies. Click here to explore our first aid training courses and qualifications today to make a difference when it matters most. By incorporating these strategies into your workplace or community, you can help create a safer environment for everyone.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Dr Richard Dune

With over 20 years of experience, Richard blends a rich background in NHS, the private sector, academia, and research settings. His forte lies in clinical R&D, advancing healthcare tech, workforce development and governance. His leadership ensures regulatory compliance and innovation align seamlessly.

The essential guide to first aid treatment for spinal injury - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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