Spinal Fractures – Neck and Back: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

December 13, 2022 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

A spinal fracture involves a dislocation or fracture of the vertebrae in the spine. These fractures occur when external forces put more pressure on the spine than it can handle.

Osteoporosis is a common cause of spinal fractures but can result from an accident or physical trauma. Spinal fractures are a medical emergency, and you must seek immediate medical treatment to prevent deformities and further damage.

What Causes Spinal Fractures?

Spinal fractures can be divided into three categories: compression fractures, axial burst fractures, and chance fractures. Most of these cases are caused by injury or trauma from accidents (falling, car crashes, sports, etc.) or bone deterioration.

Compression fractures are often caused by abnormalities in the spine, like osteoporosis or tumors. In these cases, the front vertebrae will fracture and deteriorate while the back of the vertebrae remains stable.

Axial burst fractures are most commonly caused by vertical impacts, like falling on your head or buttocks. These cases involve the loss in height of both the front and back of the vertebrae.

Chance fractures usually occur as the result of a car accident. Typically, the vertebrae are pulled apart due to a severe forward flexed injury.

Spinal Fractures Risk Factors

Most people’s risk factor increases as they age, especially among women, due to their increased risk of osteoporosis.

Risk factor for this condition increases for Caucasian and Asian women, women over 50, women who experience early menopause, slim or underweight individuals, and smokers. Cancer spreading through the bones is another condition that will put you more at risk for spinal fractures.

Symptoms of Neck and Back Spinal Fractures

Spinal fracture symptoms will vary depending on how severe the injury is and where it’s located. Symptoms should indicate the need for immediate medical attention and include:

  • Sudden pain in the neck and back
  • Neck and back pain that worsens when you move
  • Tingling and numbness in the neck, back, and limbs
  • Uncontrolled muscle spasms
  • Weakened or paralyzed limbs
  • Loss of urinary and bowel control

How are Spinal Fractures Diagnosed?

No matter the type of spinal fracture, you will need an evaluation from an emergency medicine specialist. Your doctor may recommend diagnostic tests such as:

  • X-rays to check for fractures and abnormal movement of the spine
  • Spine CT scans to view changes in the bone structure
  • MRI scan to determine soft tissue damage and assess spinal cord injury

Treatment for Neck and Back Spinal Fractures

The first step to treating spinal fracture injuries is to stabilize the individual and prevent any further damage. This stabilization may include a backboard, stretcher, or cervical collar to prevent the person from moving and injuring themselves further. Once stabilized, medical professionals can determine how best to proceed with treating the fracture.

Some minor fractures can be treated with cervical bracing, rest, and time. Unstable fractures will need surgery. Treatment may include:

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Medications to help control issues such as:
    • Blood pressure
    • Bowl and bladder dysfunctions
    • Muscle spasms
    • Pain
    • Other health issues
  • Follow-up care with your primary physician and rehabilitation therapist

Spinal Fractures Recovery Time

Recovery from a spinal fracture will vary depending on the type of fracture as well as its severity. A spinal fracture can take between 6 and 12 weeks to heal, though extreme cases may take longer. If the individual needs surgery, it can take several months to recover.

How Can I Prevent Neck and Back Spinal Fractures?

Accidents have the unfortunate quality of taking you by surprise. Natural ways to prevent spinal fractures include:

  • Taking calcium supplements
  • Taking vitamin D supplements
  • Quitting smoking
  • Doing weight-bearing and strength-building exercises

If you have or believe that you are at risk for osteoporosis, you can take medications to either slow or stop its effects. Though you must consult with your physician beforehand.

Expert Neck and Back Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

If you or a loved one has experienced a spinal fracture, look no further than Raleigh Orthopaedic for medical assistance and treatment. Our expert spine, neck, and back specialists diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal conditions and injuries. Contact us today and schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Wake County, NC.