Spine fracture symptoms vary depending on the cause of the fracture or fractures. Frequently, spine fracture symptoms mimic those of other types of back injuries, requiring confirmation by X-rays or other imaging techniques. Because they can be mistaken for other conditions, an eventual diagnosis of spinal fracture can be surprising to patients who have exhibited spine fracture symptoms. Even spinal care professionals frequently fail to consider fracture as the underlying condition when typical spine fracture symptoms are present.
Spinal Compression Fractures
Compression fractures are the most common type of spine fracture, and they are almost always related to osteoporosis or the thinning of the bones and loss of bone mass as calcium and bone protein levels decrease with age. Symptoms of spinal compression fractures commonly include:
* Pain at the site of the crushed or cracked spinal vertebra or vertebrae
* Loss of height
* Muscle fatigue
* Rounding of the upper spine creating a “hunchback” or “dowager’s hump”
* Bulging of the abdomen
* Hip pain
* Tingling, numbness, weakness and difficulty walking
* No symptoms
The Mechanics Behind Spinal Compression Fracture Symptoms
The pain at the fracture site relates to rubbing or squeezing of the spinal column and nervous system tissue by the damaged vertebrae. Because the bones are actually crushed or caved in together, some sufferers lose up to six or more inches of height. As the vertebrae fracture they shift, causing attached muscles to stretch and strain with resulting fatigue.
A characteristic symptom of multiple spinal compression fractures is a rounding of the upper back into a hunched or humped appearance. This occurs as the vertebrae usually fracture toward the front of the body, leaving a growing wedge-like stack of non-compressed bony matter toward the back. This process also tends to displace abdominal internal organs and tissue out of the abdominal cavity, resulting in a distended-looking abdomen unrelated to any weight gain. Hip pain can be present, as the increasingly displaced spinal column moves the ribs down toward the hips, sometimes actually rubbing the bones together.
Rarely symptoms can include tingling or numbness in the legs, due to pressure on the spinal cord. When severe, these symptoms can also include difficulty walking.
Perhaps the most unexpected spine fracture symptom is none at all. Because the vertebrae slowly crack over years and even decades, a person with spine fractures may not experience any pain or discomfort, particularly, with the first fracture or fractures.
Spine Fracture Symptoms Related to Accident or Injury
Serious spinal injury and fracture can follow a high-velocity accident, including automobile crashes and falls. These fractures will normally present symptoms of pain, ranging in severity from irritating to excruciating, and may also include varying degrees of immobility and even paralysis. Usually these fractures are at the mid or lower back. Spine fracture symptoms are not as important in diagnosing this type of fracture, as a complete battery of tests and imaging normally follows such an obvious injury.
Athletes and otherwise active individuals also show spine fracture symptoms after the body contact or repetitive body motions common in these activities. Spondylolisthesis, a slipping or twisting of the spine, for example can result in moderate to severe pain and loss of flexibility and strength in the lower or upper back. Investigation can show that the spondylolisthesis may be related to spinal fractures including stress fractures. Unfortunately it is also not uncommon for athletes, particularly in high-speed and contact sports such as ice hockey or football, to risk spine fracture symptoms in the cervical spine or neck area after hits into the boards or ground.
Spine Fracture Symptoms Require Close Attention
Whether a person is one of the estimated 750,000 experiencing spinal compression fractures each year, or a victim of an injury or accident resulting in an acute spine fracture, it is essential that spine fracture symptoms be thoroughly investigated so the proper diagnosis and treatment is offered. Spine fracture symptoms may range from none to mild discomfort to paralysis, yet all can adversely affect quality of life and benefit from proper care and treatment.
If you feel you have recently experienced a fracture, we will be glad to meet you and to help you. For more information please visit our website for Spine fracture Treatment