How to Give First Aid for Head, Neck and Spinal Injuries?

In times of accidents or emergencies, injuries to the head, neck, or spine require immediate attention and proper first aid to prevent further damage and ensure the safety and well-being of the affected individual. Understanding the appropriate steps to take can make a significant difference in the outcome of such situations.

When can you Suspect a Head, Neck or Spinal Injury?

Suspect a head, neck, or spinal injury if the person:

  • Fell from a height.
  • Tumbled down the stairs.
  • Was injured by a strong blow to the head, neck, or back.
  • Was injured while diving.
  • Was involved in a car crash.
  • Was riding a bicycle or motorbike involved in a crash, especially when not wearing a helmet or the helmet broke in the crash.

With any kind of head, neck, or spinal injury, be cautious about moving an injured person.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of head injury.

Concussions usually happen because of falls, motor vehicle accidents, and sports injuries. A concussion occurs when the head or body is hit so hard that the brain moves inside the skull.

Recognizing Head Injuries or Concussions

Suspect a head injury or concussion if an injured person:

  • Does not respond or only moans.
  • Feels stunned or dazed.
  • Acts sleepy or confused.
  • Has nausea or vomits.
  • Has a headache.
  • Has dizziness, unsteadiness, or difficulty in balance.
  • Has trouble seeing, walking, or moving any part of the body.
  • Double vision or flashlights.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Has a seizure.

If a person has a head injury that results in a change of consciousness, worsening signs of symptoms, or other cause for concern, the person should be evaluated by a healthcare provider or EMS personnel as soon as possible. 

Recognizing Spinal Injuries

If a person falls, an injury to the spine is possible. The spine protects the spinal cord.

Suspect possible spinal damage if an injured person:

  • Was in a car or bicycle crash.
  • Has fallen.
  • Has tingling or is weak in the extremities.
  • Has pain or tenderness in the neck or back.
  • Appears confused or not fully alert.
  • Feels nausea or is vomiting
  • Has vision problems.
  • Is 65 years of age or older.
  • Has other painful injuries, especially to the head or neck.

How to Help a Person with a Potential Head, Neck, or Spinal Injury

Follow these first aid action steps when giving first aid to a person with a possible head, neck, or spinal injury:

  1. Make sure the scene is safe: Ensure your safety and the safety of the individual. Clear the area of any sharp or harmful objects to prevent injury.
  2. Seek for medical assistance: Call your local emergency number and get the first aid kit and AED.
  3. Recognize the emergency: Be aware of the signs and symptoms of a spinal injury and understand when the situation requires immediate medical attention.
  4. Keep the person still: Advise the injured person not to move to prevent further damage to the head, neck, or spine.
  5. Stop potential severe bleeding: If there are open wounds with severe bleeding, apply pressure to stop the bleed and cover the wound.
  6. Immobilize the Head: If possible, manually immobilize the head and spine in the position where you find the person.
  7. Maintain body temperature: Cover the person with a blanket to keep them warm.
  8. Provide comfort: Reassure the person and keep them calm while waiting for medical help to arrive.
  9. Monitor and Stay:
    1. If the person becomes unresponsive, quickly check their breathing.
    2. If the person is not breathing normally, begin CPR.
    3. Stay with the victim until someone with more advanced training arrives and takes over.

With this type of injury, you may have to control external bleeding. This is why it is important to get a first-aid kit. Getting the AED is also important in case the person's condition worsens and you need to give CPR before someone with more advanced training arrives and takes over.

When can I Move the Person in case of a Spinal Injury?

When a person has a spinal injury:

  • 🚫 Do not twist or turn the person's head or neck unless absolutely necessary to do any of the following:
    • Turn the person face-up to give CPR.
    • Move the person out of danger.
    • Reposition the person because of breathing problems, vomiting, or fluid in the mouth
  • 🚫 Do not remove helmets or other protective gear unless it is necessary to assess the injury. If the person is wearing a helmet, do not remove it unless there is difficulty breathing or it is obstructing access to the airway.
  • 🚫 Do not attempt to realign the person's head or neck if you suspect a spinal injury. Immobilize the head and spine in the position where you find the person.

Avoid moving the person unless absolutely necessary, as this could worsen their condition.


If a person has a head, neck or spinal injury that results in a change of consciousness, worsening signs of symptoms, or other cause for concern, the person should be evaluated by a healthcare provider or EMS personnel as soon as possible.

Call your local emergency number if the person becomes unresponsive. A person with these signs should not play sports, drive a car, ride a bike, or work with heavy machinery until a healthcare provider says it's OK to do so.

Knowing how to administer first aid for head, neck, and spinal injuries is essential for anyone who may find themselves in an emergency situation. By following these steps and guidelines, you can help minimize the risk of further injury and provide crucial support until medical professionals arrive.