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What is a vertebral fracture?

A vertebral fracture, or broken spinal bone, can result from a fall or other type of trauma that exerts direct force on the spinal column. If the resulting weight load is more than the spine can withstand, one or more vertebrae can fracture. A spinal compression fracture occurs when the front part of a vertebral body is partially crushed, and a spinal burst fracture occurs when a vertebral body is completely shattered. Elderly adults and other individuals who have weakened bones due to osteoporosis are particularly susceptible to vertebral fractures.

What are the symptoms of a vertebral fracture?

Due to the close proximity of the vertebrae, spinal cord and nerve roots, a vertebral fracture – unlike a broken bone in another part of the body – can potentially irritate or compress a spinal nerve. Therefore, in addition to pain at the site of the injury in the neck or back, a spinal fracture can produce radiating pain, numbness, tingling sensations, muscle weakness, difficulty walking or, in very serious cases, incontinence or paralysis. The nature and severity of these symptoms will depend on the location of the affected nerve and the amount of pressure caused by the damaged vertebra.

How is a vertebral fracture treated?

In most cases, vertebral fracture treatment begins with pain management and activity modifications to help prevent further damage as the injury heals. Depending on the type and stability of the fracture, other forms of treatment may be necessary as well, such as:

  • Bracing – A cervical collar or back brace is worn to restrict movement, maintain proper spinal alignment and control pain during the healing process.
  • Spinal fusion surgery – A surgeon places a bone graft near a damaged vertebra to encourage it to gradually fuse together with an adjacent vertebra and form a single, solid piece of bone.
  • Vertebroplasty – A surgeon injects bone cement into a fractured vertebral body to enhance its strength and stability.
  • Kyphoplasty – A surgeon inserts and inflates a “balloon” to expand a compressed vertebra, then injects bone cement to strengthen it.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, we provide a full range of vertebral fracture treatment options — both conservative and surgical — to residents of Houston, TX, and surrounding areas. If you’re experiencing neck or back pain, our spine specialists can assess your condition and develop an individualized treatment plan for you.

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