Fractures in the vertebral bones of the spinal column usually occur because of trauma or injury. Other causes could be pathological fractures that occur due to the weakening of the bones in conditions like osteoporosis or cancer. Depending on the location of the fracture, affecting the cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), or lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, patients may exhibit different symptoms, ranging from pain due to compression or damage of the nerves to paralysis or the inability to move arms or legs, tingling numbness, muscle spasms, and loss of bowel or bladder control. The characteristic feature of a vertebral fracture is mild to moderate pain that increases with any type of movement and decreases with rest. Fractures may be diagnoses on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Vertebral fractures may be:
a. Compression Fractures: These occur due to weakened bones in osteoporosis or tumors, where the front of the vertebrae is fractured, but the back part remains intact, forming a wedge-shaped vertebral bone.
b. Axial Burst fractures: These occur due to falling from a height where the person lands heavily on their feet, the force of which fractures the vertebral bone both on the front and backside with fragments of bone that separate, causing damage to surrounding nerves and soft tissues.
c. Chance fractures or seat belt injuries: These occur in car accidents when the pelvic bone is stabilized with a seat belt while the upper body is pulled forward or flexed violently.
Minor fractures that can heal by themselves are usually stabilized by bracing, and patients are given pain relievers to control symptoms. Fractures compressing nerves require traction or spine surgery. Physical therapy is recommended after the fracture has healed to improve the range of movements and strengthen muscles.
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