Spinal fractures usually occur either as a result of direct trauma to the spinal column or weakened vertebrae resulting from osteoporosis. Less commonly, spinal fractures can be due to weakening of the bone from tumors. Spine fractures are more concerning than most other types of fractures because of the potential for nerve or spinal column damage from bone fragments.
While fractures can occur anywhere in the spine, nearly two thirds of fractures occur in the mid-to-lower back, or thoracolumbar, section of the spine (T12-L1). The most common type of fracture, a vertebral body compression fracture, occurs when excessive pressure is placed on a vertebra, collapsing the structure of the bone and shattering it.
Symptoms of a spinal fracture vary depending on the location, but almost always include back or neck pain. The great majority of spinal fractures do not require surgery and can be treated in a brace. Numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in the extremities, bowel/bladder changes and weakness in the arm or leg are more serious symptoms and usually require surgery. Surgical treatment usually involves making sure that nerves are not pinched from the bone fragments then stabilizing the area of fracture by placing screws above and below with connecting rods.