Spinal Fracture : Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Pramod Saini

, Health A2Z

A spinal fracture is also known as a vertebral fracture.  Spinal fracture or spinal injury destroys our personality and our health, it plays a major role in our body. A dislocation or fracture of a vertebra can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord.


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Most spinal fractures happen in car accidents, falls, gunshot, or sports. Injuries can reach from relatively mild ligament and muscle strains to fractures and dislocations of the bony vertebrae to debilitating spinal cord damage. So, today we are going to discuss vertebral fracture and how it is dangerous.


What is a Spinal Fracture?


Spinal fractures are totally different than a broken arm or leg. Most types of spinal fracture confer a significant risk of spinal cord injury. Spinal fractures caused by trauma represent a serious orthopedic injury.  It occurs as a result of a high-velocity accident which is most common in the mid to low back. Any fracture in the neck has serious consequences because the spinal cord runs through the center of the cervical vertebrae.


What are the Types of Spinal Fractures?


There are mainly three types of spinal fractures:


1. Crush Fracture:


When the whole vertebra collapses, the result is a crush fracture. Because the whole bone is affected more uniformly, this type of fracture can cause a reduction in height rather than a more dramatic posture change.


2. Wedge Fracture:


It is a common type of spinal compression fracture. When a chock fracture occurs, part of the vertebra, typically on the front side of the body, collapses, while the other side stays intact. The result is a wedge shape which affects a person’s posture, often leading to a hunchback shape.


3. Burst Fracture:


This fracture is characterized by a burst shape as the bone breaks in multiple directions. Pressure causes bone fragments to push out from the spinal column, potentially impacting the spinal cord.


What are the Symptoms of a Spinal Fracture?


There are a few symptoms of vertebral fracture :


1. Back pain


2. Numbness


3. Tingling


4. Muscle pain


5. Bowel/bladder changes


6. Paralysis


7. Weakness


8. Loss of height


9. Curved stooped shape to your spine


The pain usually happens with a slight back strain during an everyday activity like:


1. Lifting a bag of groceries


2. Bending to the floor to pick something up


3. Slipping on a rug or making a misstep


4.Lifting a suitcase out of the trunk of a car


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What are the Causes of Vertebral Fracture?


In car accidents (45%), falls (20%), sports (15%), acts of violence (15%), and miscellaneous activities (5%) are the primary causes of spinal fractures. Diseases like – osteoporosis and spine tumors also contribute to fractures.


Diagnosis of Spinal Fracture


In some cases of spinal injury, paramedics will take you to an emergency room. Firstly the doctor sees you in the ER, it depends on your injuries, other specialists will be called to assess your condition. Doctors will analysis your breathing and perform a physical exam of the spine. The spine stays in a neck or back brace until appropriate diagnostic tests are completed.


1. X-ray Test


It uses x-rays to view the bony vertebrae in your spine and can tell your doctor if any of them show fractures. Special flex and extension x-rays may be taken to detect any abnormal movement.


2. Computed Tomography (CT Scan)


This is a safe, noninvasive test which uses an X-ray beam and a computer to make 2-dimensional images of your spine. It may not be performed with a dye (contrast agent) injected into your bloodstream. It is especially useful for viewing changes in bony structures.


3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI Scan)


It is a noninvasive test which uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to give a detailed view of the soft tissues of your spine. An X-ray, nerves, and discs are clearly visible. It may not be performed with a dye (contrast agent) injected into your bloodstream. It is useful in evaluating soft tissue damage to the ligaments and discs and assessing spinal cord injury.


What are the Treatments of Fractures of the Spine?


Treatment of a fracture starts with pain management and stabilization to prevent further injury. It depends on the type of fracture and its stability.


There are some treatments of  vertebral fracture:


1. Braces & Orthotics


  •  Maintains spinal alignment


  •  Cripple your spine during healing


  •  Controls pain by restricting movement



Solid fractures only require stabilization with a brace, such as a rigid collar (Miami J) for cervical fractures, a cervical-thoracic brace (Minerva) for upper back fractures, or a thoracolumbar-sacral orthosis (TLSO) for lower back fractures. After 10 to 12 weeks the brace is usually discontinued. Unstable neck fractures or dislocations require traction to realign the spine into its correct position.


2. Instrumentation & Fusion are Surgical Procedures to Treat Unstable Fractures:


Fusion is connecting of two vertebrae with a bone graft held together with hardware such as plates, rods, hooks, pedicle screws, or cages. The goal of the bone graft is to join the vertebrae above and below to form one solid piece of bone. It may take a few months or longer to create a solid fusion.


3. Vertebroplasty & Kyphoplasty:


These are minimally invasive procedures performed to treat compression fractures commonly caused by osteoporosis and spinal tumors. As vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected through a hollow needle into the fractured vertebral body. As kyphoplasty, a balloon is first inserted and inflated to expand the compressed vertebra before filling the space with bone cement.




A spinal fracture can occur from traumatic incidents like a car accident or a fall. Spinal is like a backbone of your body if it is not appropriate then you cannot walk, stand, sit etc. Your cord bends down and your personality looks so bad. In the above article, we have talked about vertebral fracture and its symptoms if you feel any of the above symptoms then consult a doctor as earlier as you can.


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