What is a spinal fracture?
A spinal fracture is any break in the vertebrae (bones) of the spine.
There are several different types of spinal fractures and doctors classify fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine based on the pattern of the injury and whether the spinal cord has been injured. By classifying the type of spinal fracture it can help to identify the best treatment.
The three most significant types of spinal fracture patterns are flexion, extension and rotation.
What causes a spinal fracture?
Fractures of the thoracic spine are often caused by a high-energy trauma such as a fall from a height, a car crash, or a high impact sporting activity.
Spinal fractures may also be caused by other underlying conditions and may not show symptoms straight away. Some conditions causing spinal fractures include osteoporosis, tumours, or weakened bones.
What are the symptoms of a spinal fracture?
It is estimated that over 65% of spinal fractures are asymptomatic- do not have symptoms and can be found when you are being screened for a different injury.
Some symptoms people do experience include:
- Long standing thoracic back pain
- Slower walking
- Decreased spinal range of movement
- Problems with lung function
- Kyphosis particularly in osteoporotic patients with compression fractures
- Neurological problems due to the spinal canal getting smaller including numbness, tingling, weakness or bladder/bowel dysfunction.
How is a spinal fracture diagnosed?
Spinal fractures can often be dismissed as a back pain being a normal part of ageing so if you have weaker bones or are at risk of developing a spinal fracture it is important to talk to your doctor. Different scans can diagnose spinal fractures including: X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans or discograms.
What treatment can Farrell Physiotherapy offer for a spinal fracture?
Following a thorough assessment your physiotherapist will be able to distinguish treatment goals with you. Treatment is tailored to the individual and is dependent upon if there are any other injuries sustained and the particular fracture pattern you may have. There are a wide range of treatment options following a spinal fracture and your physiotherapist will choose the most appropriate treatment options.
Treatment can include:
- Spinal muscle strengthening exercises
- Stretching exercises
- Postural correction exercises
- Graded return to activities of daily living/sporting activities
- Core strengthening exercises and Pilates
- Soft tissue massage
- Education and advice
- Advice regarding anti-inflammatory medication
Benefit of physiotherapy for a spinal fracture?
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment following a spinal fracture. The particular benefits you feel from physiotherapy will be based on your symptoms and goals.
The goals of physiotherapy include:
- Improved posture
- Reduced pain
- Increased thoracic movement
- Strengthened spinal muscles
- Improved trunk control
- Prevention of future fractures