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Top Treatments for a Back Fracture

Top Treatments for a Back Fracture

Spinal fractures can occur anywhere in the chain of vertebrae that compose the spine, and they can vary widely in severity. 

Those fractures that result from high-energy trauma can be severe, requiring emergency treatment. Others that come from a low-impact fall may require less-intense intervention. Compression fractures that spontaneously develop in people with osteoporosis may fall somewhere in between.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, double board-certified and fellowship-trained interventional pain specialist Dr. Matthew Crooks and his team understand how painful and debilitating a back fracture can be. 

That’s why we offer both minimally invasive treatments for compression fractures, along with bracing and interventional measures to minimize your back pain. Here’s what we want you to know about back fractures and the top treatments to resolve them.

A bit about your spine

The adult spine contains 24 bony vertebrae that are divided into three regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (lower back). 

The cervical and lumbar regions are curved like a “c,” known as lordosis, and the thoracic region is curved like a reverse “c,” known as kyphosis.

In between the vertebrae are soft intervertebral discs that work as shock absorbers, and hinge-like facet joints connect each vertebra to the ones directly above and below it. 

Each joint and spinal region can move independently, but since everything’s connected, the spine can also move as a whole. Together, this structure forms the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord running through it.

Types of back fractures

Doctors classify back fractures based on the specific pattern of the fracture and whether the break is accompanied by a spinal cord injury. Classification helps determine proper treatment.

There are three major types of back fracture patterns:

Flexion

Flexion fractures are themselves divided into two types:

Extension

In this case, the vertebra is literally pulled apart. It’s usually seen in a head-on car crash where the upper body pitches forward while the pelvis remains stabilized by a seat belt. It’s almost always an unstable fracture.

Rotation

Rotation fractures also come in two types:

Top treatments for a back fracture

As we’ve mentioned, the type of fracture you sustain determines how we treat it. In the case of surgery, the goals are to:

Dr. Crooks may use metal screws, rods, and cages during surgery to help stabilize your spine.

Flexion fractures

We treat most flexion fractures, including stable burst fractures and compression fractures from osteoporosis, by bracing the spine for 6-12 weeks. Patients engage in physical therapy and slowly increase activity to avoid post-injury problems.

If pain prevents you from participating in rehabilitation, Dr. Crooks may recommend interventional medicine treatments such as steroid injections and nerve blocks.

Dr. Crooks also surgically treats compression fractures using one of two techniques:

Vertebroplasty

With this surgery, Dr. Crooks inserts a narrow needle into the damaged vertebra, injecting bone cement. When it hardens, it restores bone strength and spinal stability.

Kyphoplasty 

With kyphoplasty, Dr. Crooks inserts a special balloon in the vertebra and inflates it to restore the bone’s normal height. After withdrawing the balloon, he injects cement into the cavity.

Extension fractures

We can treat extension fractures that extend only through the vertebral body without surgery. The usual treatment involves a cast or brace worn for 12 weeks.

Surgery is usually necessary for stabilization if the posterior spinal ligaments are damaged or if the fracture extends through the discs of the spine.

Rotation fractures

Transverse process fractures are generally treated by gradually increasing motion, either with or without bracing.

For fracture dislocations of the thoracic and lumbar spine, which can be extremely unstable injuries resulting in serious spinal cord or nerve damage, surgery is the best option. But it may have to be delayed if you have suffered other serious or life-threatening injuries.

If you’re at risk for a back fracture or if you’ve sustained one and need treatment, Pinnacle Pain and Spine is the place you want to be. 

Give us a call at any of our locations to set up a consultation with Dr. Crooks, or book online with us today. We have convenient locations in Scottsdale, Chandler, and Fountain Hills, Arizona.

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