A spinal fracture occurs when a bone is broken in the spine.
There are many causes of fractures from car accidents to a fall. However, if someone has weak or deteriorating bones from a preexisting condition such as osteoporosis, even an abrupt hard twist can break a bone in the spine.
Cervical fractures occur in the neck area of the spine while lumbar fractures occur in the lower back.
In cervical fractures, symptoms may be limited to pain, swelling, and bruising. However, individuals may also experience:
Muscle spasms in the neck
Limited mobility when twisting the neck
Numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers
Rarely, with catastrophic injuries, can result in paralysis
To diagnose a fracture, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be obtained. Treatment for fractures varies by the severity of the injury.
Minor fractures can be treated wearing a collar or a brace for a few weeks. More complex fractures resulting in instability of the spine or in neurological deficits will likely require surgery.