The spine is composed of 33 vertebrae, 24 of which comprise the moving sections of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. This important feature protects and holds the spinal cord which is a major part of the central nervous system. For this reason, a spinal fracture is a serious injury requiring medical attention.
The common reasons for spinal fractures is due to high velocity impact such as a car accident or fall. Underlying medical conditions like osteoporosis, or tumors may also cause a fracture of the spine as well.
The areas of the back which usually present with a fracture are the lumbar spine, or lower back, and the thoracic spine, or midback. Men are more likely to suffer a spinal fracture than women.
There are three basic types of spinal fractures, rotation, flexion, and extension. Identifying the type of fracture is imperative to creating the appropriate treatment plan for the patient.
Most spinal fractures that can be treated without surgical intervention will require bracing for extended periods. This is then followed with progressive physical therapy after removal of the brace.
When surgical intervention is required, the goal is to limit damage to the spinal cord, retain mobility, and reduce the site of the fracture. To achieve these goals, it may require a laminectomy, in which the damaged bone is removed. Other procedures may require the placement of rods, screws, or metal caging to create a stable environment at the site of the fracture. The complications of a spinal surgery include bleeding, spinal fluid leak, failure of the instruments after placement, nonunion, and infection.
Regardless of the treatment approach, the need for extensive rehabilitation is always required. Physcial therapy of the spine focuses on a return of mobility and a decrease in pain, the goal is to reach pre-incident ability.