Spinal Fractures Explained
A spinal fracture isn’t like a broken arm or leg. A fractured vertebra could produce bone fragments that jut into spinal nerves, or do damage to the spinal cord. Most traumatic spinal fractures are caused by traffic accidents, sports injuries, and both high- and low-impact falls.
There are different types of spinal fracture. A minor injury, such as whiplash, can result in a strained muscle or ligament, and may need only a little time and rest to heal. But severe spinal fractures can be extremely debilitating, causing pain, disability, paralysis, and neurological damage.
Spinal compression fractures are a common cause of back pain in older adults. As we age, our bones lose some of their strength and density, become more brittle, and put us at risk of injury. Missing a step, lifting a heavy box, or even coughing or sneezing could cause a compression fracture in severe cases.
These “hairline” fractures can compound over time, weakening the vertebra and causing a collapse. When this happens, the spine compresses, and you may lose some inches off your height. The vertebra may breakdown into a wedge shape, giving you a stooped posture known as Dowager’s hump.
Spinal Fracture Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a fractured spine will vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Some common symptoms include:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Tingling sensations
- Muscle spasms
- Inability to control bowels or bladder
- Paralysis of the arms or legs
Symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture include:
- Curvature of the spine (kyphosis).
- Loss of height.
Lingering Compression Fracture Pain
Compression fracture pain varies from person to person. Typically it takes about 2-3 months for the fracture to heal. In some cases, the pain slowly decreases until it’s gone. In other cases, the pain lingers even after the bones have mended.
Multiple Spinal Fractures
Don’t ignore back pain. Spinal fractures are serious injuries, and one fracture can weaken the bones, creating the perfect conditions for more fractures in the future.
If you have multiple fractures, back pain may become the least of your worries. Spinal compression and kyphosis change your body mechanics and disrupt other crucial physiological systems. You may experience digestive or breathing problems as your spine compresses your stomach and lungs. If your ribcage reaches your hip bones, you may have hip pain as well.
Treatment for Spinal Fracture
At Nuvo Spine, we use non-invasive measures as a first-line approach. Depending on your injury, your individualized treatment plan may include a combination of the following:
- Back bracing – Aligns the vertebrae and immobilizes the spine to control pain during the 8-12 week recovery period.
- Spinal compression fracture physical therapy.
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Medication – Oral or epidural injection may be recommended.
- Activity reduction or modification.
- Bone-strengthening medication.
- Nutritional supplements.
If your symptoms won’t respond to conservative treatment, then we can pursue more advanced interventions, such as Kyphoplasty and Vertebroplasty.
At Nuvo Spine, we specialize in these high-quality, minimally-invasive techniques. They can stabilize the spine, prevent further damage, and provide rapid pain relief. Contact our offices today, and learn how you can return to a pain-free life.