Spine Center: Spinal Trauma

A Spine Center physician reviews an X-ray.

Spinal Trauma


If you or someone you know has been in a car accident; has had a severe injury to head, neck, or back; experienced a violent blow or cut to the spine; or has any fracture that may compress the neck or spine, do not delay. Call 911 and get proper support to get to a hospital; do not attempt to move the victim by yourself.

What is spinal trauma?

Spinal trauma can result from any injury that affects the spine, neck, or head. Fractures, compressions, cuts, or dislocation of any of these can result in trauma that has a debilitating affect on the whole body. While an individual may not appear to be suffering unduly, the ramifications of this kind of injury may not appear until later. It is critically important that medical attention is promptly sought and received so that the extent of injuries can be evaluated and the amount of recovery possible is not compromised. If untreated, additional damage may occur from internal bleeding, swelling, inflammation, or fluid accumulation.


Because trauma can affect the spine in many different places and ways, symptoms can vary. You can have loss of movement or sensation, or pain; you can exhibit weakness or feel numb or appear uncoordinated; your motions can become exaggerated; or you can have spasms. You may have problems with balance, or impaired breathing. Spinal trauma may seem to be slight, but since problems can show up later, it is best that any kind of spine injury is seen to promptly.


Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for the majority of spinal trauma injuries, but falls, for those over 65, are also a factor. Certain sports — those that are high impact, or sports like diving — and alcohol use, can contribute to higher risk. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, just being male can be a risk factor: males account for about 80 percent of all new cases every year.

External events can cause a wide range of damage to your spine, from minimal to critical; the outcome depends on the severity and placement of the injury. Once this is determined, rehabilitation and longer-term pain management efforts can begin.


For critical cases, hospitalization is generally required. Once the patient is diagnosed and the extent of injury determined, treatment can start. “There are all sort of different diagnostic tests that can be used in the hospital if they are indicated and can be administered without risking further injury,” says Michael Gutkin, MD, a physiatrist at OINJ. “If a person has neck pain, or is not fully awake, or there are other obvious signs of injury, tests such as CT scan, x-rays, and MRIs can be implemented to find out where we are. Once swelling, if any, has subsided, neurological exams can be employed to assess the level of injury.”
Rehabilitation protocols are key. “Most spinal cord injuries are going to be emergency room visits. At OINJ, we’ll be part of your ongoing treatment team; our sports medicine expertise and pain management experience will come to the forefront to give you the help you need as you heal. We’ll devise exercises that help you maintain and strengthen your muscles, and help with any motor skill recovery. Physical and occupational therapy can help you with any adaptive techniques you’ll need to learn,” says Christopher Castro, DO, another physiatrist at OINJ. “Dr. Gutkin and I specialize in non-operative spinal care, including interventional spine procedures. We are also rehabilitation specialists.”
Remember — don’t guess about the severity of an injury that can affect the spinal cord. Prompt attention makes a difference in outcomes.

Why Choose The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey

At OINJ, board certified physicians work collaboratively to come up with the best solutions for you. Using innovative techniques and the most up-to-date research and technologies available, our specialists have one goal: to get you back into the best of orthopedic health. We work with each other, as well as with other partners in your care, to develop the treatment plan that will work for you.

Our multiple office locations that can be reached by one centralized call center make it easy to schedule and get to appointments, and we treat patients of all ages with injuries and orthopedic conditions of all kinds.

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Featured Physicians

Christopher Castro, DO – Physiatrist

As a physiatrist, Dr. Castro has expertise in non-operative spinal care, interventional spine procedures, pain management, occupational medicine, and electrodiagnostic studies. Board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Castro incorporates medications, therapies, injections and lifestyle changes to help his patients improve function. 

Dr. Castro completed an advanced fellowship at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ); held his residency at the Sinai Hospital Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program in Baltimore; and received his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. His undergraduate degree in chemistry was earned at Fairfield University in Connecticut.


Michael S. Gutkin, MD – Physiatrist

Dual board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in sports medicine as well as physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Gutkin is a physiatrist whose areas of expertise include interventional spinal and joint injection, pain management, rehabilitation, and spinal injuries. He is a partner at The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

Dr. Gutkin completed his residency at The Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center, and received his medical degree from St. George’s University Medical School. His undergraduate degree in biology was earned at Ithaca College in New York.


More Information

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The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey is a premier multi-disciplinary center offering complete orthopedic care, rehabilitation and pain management services to patients of all ages and activity levels using a customized treatment plan to fit individual needs.

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