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What Is a Spinal Fracture?

A spinal fracture is a broken vertebra, which can occur anywhere in the spine from the neck down to the lower back. Similar to a broken arm or leg bone, a broken vertebra can result from trauma, such as a fall, car accident or sports-related impact. Additionally, if the spinal bones have become weakened due to osteoporosis, a vertebral compression fracture can even result from a routine activity that only slightly strains or jars the spine. Some examples include bending to pick up an object from the floor, reaching overhead to open a window or lifting a relatively lightweight item, such as a bag of groceries.

Like any other broken bone, a spinal fracture can cause pain and inflammation. However, because the vertebrae are in close proximity to the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots, a broken vertebra can potentially cause neurological complications as well. For instance, if a vertebra is forced out of alignment or a bone fragment breaks off, the displaced bone can potentially compress a nearby spinal nerve.

What are the symptoms of a spinal fracture?

In addition to neck or back pain, a spinal fracture can cause:

  • Pain that worsens with standing or walking and improves with lying down
  • Difficulty bending and twisting the spine
  • A loss of body height
  • Excessive spinal curvature
  • A stooped or hunched-forward posture

Additionally, if a spinal fracture causes nerve compression, other symptoms may develop, such as pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations that travel along the pathway of an affected nerve, which may run from the spine all the way down one arm or leg.

How is a spinal fracture addressed?

Some vertebral fractures gradually heal on their own over the course of several months. In the meantime, it is important to avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting and other activities that can aggravate the condition. Medications and bracing can help relieve pain, and after the fracture heals, physical therapy can help restore mobility and range of motion.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove a bone fragment, realign a displaced vertebra or add support and stability to the spinal column. At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we provide a comprehensive range of spinal fracture treatment options — both surgical and nonsurgical — to residents of Houston, TX, and surrounding areas. Our spine specialists can assess your injury and make an individualized recommendation for you.

To learn more about our approach to spinal fracture treatment, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, today.