High energy trauma to the bones of the spinal column are the most common cause of spinal fractures. This high energy trauma often occurs in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine, which translate to the mid and lower back respectively. There are a number of ways to treat spinal fractures, but in order to treat them, they must be classified correctly.
There are three main types of spine fractures, which are discussed below:
Flexion Fracture Pattern: Also known as a teardrop fracture, this occurs when the spine is flexed and compressed, resulting in the displacement of a fragment. There are two major types of flexion fracture patterns:
- Axial burst fracture. This is a type of vertical fracture that occurs when the vertebrae are compressed, forcing the inter-vertebral disc to collide with the vertebra below. This can be caused by landing on one’s feet after falling from a great height.
- Compression fracture. This type of fracture can affect more than one vertebral bone and cause it to collapse. This type of fracture is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition like osteoporosis.
Rotation Fracture Pattern: This type of fracture occurs as a result of forceful flexion and rotation of the spine. There are two major types:
- Transverse process fracture. This type of fracture occurs as a result of extreme sideways rotation or lateral bending of the spine. This is an uncommon type of fracture and is also considered benign since the fracture does not affect stability.
- Fracture dislocation. In this type of fracture, vertebra may become displaced and, as a result, cause severe spinal cord compression as well as damage to the surrounding soft tissue. This type of injury is considered severe because it greatly affects stability.
Extension Fracture Pattern: This type of fracture often occurs in motor vehicle accidents where there is enough force to pull apart the vertabrae while the pelvic area of the body is stabilized by a lap seat belt.
Individuals with spinal fractures will experience moderate to severe back pain which is made worse by movement. If the spinal cord is injured, the individual will also experience numbness, weakness, tingling and in some cases, bowel and bladder dysfunction.
Spinal fractures require immediate medical attention and are treated based on severity as well as fracture pattern. Treatment can involve non-invasive procedures, such as wearing a back brace, or surgical treatment, depending on the severity. Surgery is often necessary in cases where there is significant vertebral compression or nerve damage.
Spinal injuries can be painful and debilitating, but with the right type of treatment and rehabilitation, recovery is attainable.