Spine Fractures



Broken arms or legs are not the same as spinal fractures. A vertebral fracture or dislocation can result in bone fragments pinching and injuring the spinal nerves or spinal cord. The majority of spinal fractures result from sports, falls, gunshots, or auto accidents. From relatively minor muscle and ligament strains to vertebral fractures and dislocations, to crippling spinal cord injury, injuries can range in severity. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could feel discomfort, have trouble moving your arms or legs, or be unable to walk (paralysis). Although many fractures may be treated conservatively, major fractures may need surgery to straighten the bones.


Depending on the type of spinal fracture you have, your symptoms and their severity might change (read the article Types of Spinal Fractures for a description of the various spinal fractures). Whether the spinal fracture is producing nerve issues also affects the symptoms.


Even after a severe incident like a car accident, you might not be aware that you have a spinal fracture because pain isn’t often associated with fractures of the spine. This is whyit’s crucial to undergo a complete medical evaluation following a stressful occurrence.

A spinal fracture, however, may result in abrupt, excruciating pain around the injury. The area around a spinal fracture may enlarge because of the fracture.

You may have neurological symptoms like the following if the spinal fracture is pushing on a nerve or the spinal cord:

  • weakness in your arms or legs
  • numbness in your arms or legs
  • pain that travels down your arms or legs (radiculopathy)
  • difficultly walking or moving
  • bowel/bladder problems
  • paralysis (in rare instances)

Even if there is no pain, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of the neurological symptoms. Spinal fractures with neurological sequelae are very hazardous.

Other symptoms not mentioned above may also accompany compression fractures, a kind of spinal fracture typically linked to osteoporosis or other bone-weakening disorders. For instance, if you have several compression fractures, you may get shorter and/or develop a hump in your spine (kyphosis). Read the article Symptoms of Osteoporosis for further information on the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis-related compression fractures.