A spinal fracture is a break or collapse of the bones, or vertebrae, in your spine. Spine fractures can be caused by trauma or injury, such as an automobile accident or a bad fall. If your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis or chemotherapy, you can also develop spinal fractures from seemingly innocuous actions like a coughing fit or catching yourself abruptly when you stumble.
Types of Spinal Fractures
The types of spinal fractures can all be classified as mild, severe, stable, unstable, minor and major. However, the most common spinal fractures include:
Compression Fractures: Compression fractures are the most common type of spinal fracture and usually result from the impact of a fall. Older people with osteoporosis are particularly vulnerable to compression fractures.
Burst Fractures: Burst fractures occur when the vertebrae in your spine are crushed, leaving your spinal cord and nerves compromised. Burst fractures are usually caused by severe trauma or force. This type of spinal fracture is classified as severe and unstable and requires emergency medical intervention.
Flexion-Compression Fractures: Flexion-compression fractures are caused by extreme bending (flexion) or compression of your spine’s vertebrae. Severe whiplash can cause flexion-compression fractures. These fractures often cause loss of vertebral height but are considered stable, with varying degrees of severity.
Flexion-Distraction Fractures: Flexion-distraction fractures are caused by violent forward bending of the spine, like when you are caught by your seat belt. Flexion-distraction fractures can cause breaks and damage to the vertebrae, ligaments and discs of your spine.
Compression-Torsion-Translational Fractures: Compression-torsion-translational fractures are usually the result of multiple forces causing a sudden and harsh twisting of the spine causing a “crunching” of your bones, ligaments and discs. A football player being tackled from two directions could incur a compression-torsion-translational fracture.
Symptoms of Spinal Fractures
The symptoms of a spinal fracture will vary depending on the type and severity of your injury. However, common symptoms include:
- Moderate to intense pain in your back at the location of injury
- Weakness or paralysis of your arms or other extremities
- Numbness or tingling in your arms or hands
Spinal fractures can go undiagnosed, especially if they develop gradually over time as a result of osteoporosis or the worsening of a previous injury. If you have back pain that steadily worsens, is not helped by over-the-counter medication or physical exercise, or causes a change in your posture or height, see a neurosurgeon immediately.
Treatments Options for Spinal Fractures
Spinal fractures are classified as either surgical or nonsurgical. Nonsurgical spinal fracture treatments include pain relief medications, back braces and avoidance of heavy physical exertion. These treatments are meant to help manage your pain, but they do not treat your spinal fracture, merely allow it time to heal. However, if left untreated by surgical procedures, spinal fractures can heal incorrectly, causing deformity and chronic pain.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery options include spinal fusion and balloon kyphoplasty, both of which are commonly used to repair spine fractures. Consult with your neurosurgeon about your surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to help you find the right solution for your spinal health.
If you have been injured or have questions about your spine surgery options, contact Capital City Neurosurgery to schedule a consultation with a competent and experienced neurosurgeon.