Back and spine injuries are extremely common amongst both men and women, in the US. Generally, as a result of some type of accident or trauma, these injuries can cause fractures along the spine.
Depending on the area of the spine that is affected, there might be differing symptoms. The cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.
What is a Spine Fracture?
Spinal fractures are much different from a normal broken bone. A fractured or broken bone in the spine, like a vertebra, can cause a number of different issues and can cause damage to vital tissue such as the disc and even the spinal cord itself.
Fractures can occur anywhere along the spine, with the majority occurring in the lower back or lumbar spine.
Causes of a Spinal Fracture
A fracture occurs when more pressure is placed upon a bone that it can withstand. The most common type of spinal fracture takes place in the vertebrae. Most often, vertebra damage is a result of a sudden downward force, shattering or collapsing a vertebra. If the fracture is powerful enough, it can send bone fragments into the spinal cord.
The most frequent causes of spinal fractures include:
- Car Accidents
- Sports Accidents
- Osteoporosis, infections, and the presence of tumors are contributing factors.
The symptoms are highly dependent upon the area and the severity of the fracture, as some more severe fractures may cause spinal cord damage while most do not. Symptoms of a spinal fracture include:
- Back Pain
- Burning or Tingling Sensation
- Muscle Spasms
- Muscle Weakness
- Paralysis – Temporary or Permanent
- Neck Pain
- Occasional Bladder or Bowel Issues
- Movement and Coordination issues
For the most part, treatment of a spinal fracture is dependent on its location as well as the severity. While surgery is left for a last resort, it can often be necessary.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Braces & Casts – Used to maintain the alignment of the spine and hold the fractured bone in place so it can heal. Unlike a broken leg or an arm, you cannot fit a normal cast on the spine. Therefore, different methods of bracing is most common, depending on the location.
- Physical Therapy
- Medication – For pain relief and inflammation.
In some cases,however, spinal fractures require surgical treatment. Some surgical treatment options include:
- Spinal Fusion with Instrumentation – Spinal fusion is a means of fusing the vertebrae above and below the damaged vertebra, with each other. A valuable means of treating an unstable fracture, fusion uses a graft and instrumentation like plates, rods, screws, and more. The goal of the bone graft is to join the vertebrae above and below to form one solid piece of bone. It may take several months or longer to create a solid fusion.
- Vertebroplasty or Kyphoplasty – These minimally invasive procedures are designed to treat compression fractures within the spine, caused by osteoporosis and spinal tumors. In vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected through a hollow needle into the fractured vertebral body. In kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted and inflated to expand the compressed vertebra before filling the space with bone cement.