Spine fracture

What is a Spine Fracture?

A spine fracture is a break in one or more of the bones of the spine, which is also called the vertebral column. The vertebral column is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae that are connected by tough strings of ligament and discs to protect the spinal cord and nerves.

Spine fractures are very common and can occur in any age group. An excessive force to the spine can cause a fracture of the vertebrae. Some common causes of spine fractures include falls, motor vehicle accidents, direct blow to the spine, car accidents, sports trauma, and osteoporosis. Falls are the most common cause for spinal fractures in older adults.

Symptoms of Spine Fracture

The symptoms of a spinal fracture include pain, numbness, and loss of sensation in the arms and legs. There also may be a deformity of the spine or a gap between two vertebrae, as well as changes in bladder and bowel function. Other symptoms can sometimes include muscle spasms or weakness in the legs or arms. In severe cases, paralysis can occur.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Spine Fracture

A spine fracture is usually diagnosed with imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scan and MRI. In less severe cases, a physical exam may be used to determine the extent of the injury. Treatment for a spine fracture will depend upon the severity of the fracture and the location. Treatment options may include bed rest, medications to reduce pain and inflammation, physical therapy, bracing, and in extreme cases, surgery.

Risk Factors

The risk of experiencing a spine fracture increases as you age. Other factors that can increase the chance of a spine fracture include smoking, being immobilized for an extended period of time, heavy alcohol use, and participation in contact sports.

Complications of a Spine Fracture

  • Compression of the spinal cord, nerves, or blood vessels
  • Paralysis
  • Pain that persists after the fracture has healed
  • Decreased mobility
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control