Spinal fractures are different than a broken arm or leg. A fracture or dislocation of a vertebra can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Most spinal fractures occur from car accidents, falls, gunshot, or sports. Injuries can range from relatively mild ligament and muscle strains, to fractures and dislocations of the bony vertebrae, to debilitating spinal cord damage. Depending on how severe your injury is, you may experience pain, difficulty walking, or be unable to move your arms or legs (paralysis). Many fractures heal with conservative treatment; however severe fractures may require surgery to realign the bones.
What are spinal fractures?
Spinal injuries can range from relatively mild ligament and muscle strains (such as whiplash), to fractures and dislocations of the bony vertebrae, to debilitating spinal cord injuries. Spinal fractures and dislocations can pinch, compress, and even tear the spinal cord. Treatment of spinal fractures depends on the type of fracture and the degree of instability.
Whiplash is a common injury to the neck caused by hyperextension or rapid back and forth motion of the head - most often in a car accident. The jerking motion strains the muscles and ligaments of the neck and may cause the discs to bulge. Whiplash can lead to headaches, stiff muscles, or neck pain. It is important that a doctor examine a spine injury carefully. Whiplash is different than a spinal fracture or spinal cord injury and the symptoms usually improve with conservative treatment.
Spinal instability is the excessive motion between vertebrae caused by stretched or torn ligaments and broken bone. Abnormal slipping and rubbing motions can cause pain and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Stable fractures can usually be treated with bracing and rest. Unstable fractures usually require surgery to realign the bones and prevent spinal cord or nerve injury.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a spinal fracture vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. They include back or neck pain, numbness, tingling, muscle spasm, weakness, bowel/bladder changes, and paralysis. Paralysis is a loss of movement in the arms or legs and may indicate a spinal cord injury. Not all fractures cause spinal cord injury and rarely is the spinal cord completely severed.