Vertebral compression fractures, or VCFs, are one of the most common complications associated with osteoporosis. These spinal fractures affect over 700,000 Americans every year according to AAFP. Vertebral compression fractures can lead to chronic pain, increased risk of pressure sores, and a host of other complications.
While the spinal fracture risk definitely increases with age, any person can unfortunately suffer from this injury due to major accidents involving negligence. Without quick diagnosis and treatment, victims can suffer serious long-term effects of fractured vertebrae.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Bailey, Johnson & Peck deeply understand how the long-term effects of fractured vertebrae can impact victims for the rest of their lives. If you or a loved one is suffering from a back or spinal cord injury due to negligence, call our office at 518-456-0082 for a free legal consultation.
What is a Fractured Vertebrae?
The vertebral column, or spinal column, is made of a sequence of vertebrae. Intervertebral discs separate and unite each vertebrae. The vertebral column contains four curvatures that aid in shock absorption, strength, and flexibility. This helps support the body’s movements.
In order to accommodate increased upper body load, the curvatures begin to curve more intensely, and once the load or force is removed, these curvatures should flex back into their original position.
A fractured vertebrae occurs when one or multiple vertebrae breaks down. These types of fractures typically occur in the middle of a person’s spine.
Spinal fractures can cause both acute and chronic pain, increased risk of falling, and diminished quality of life.
Are Spinal Fractures Common?
Vertebral fractures are one of the most common types of osteoporotic fractures in the United States. In fact, 700,000 Americans suffer from these types of fractures every year according to a recent study.
Types of Spinal Fractures
The main types of spinal fractures include the following:
Axial Burst Fracture
A slip and fall accident may lead to a loss of height on both the victim’s back and front of the vertebra. This is known as an axial burst fracture.
A chance fractured spine is considered an unstable fracture. These types of unstable fractures are typically the result of a serious car accident. Chance fractures occur when the vertebrae pull apart from one another because of a violent forward flexed injury.
When someone sustains a compression fracture, the back of their vertebra is stable, while the front vertebra starts to break or deteriorate.
While most spinal fractures are the result of osteoporosis, a vertebral fracture of any kind is the first sign of a compromised skeleton. Because there is a higher risk for spinal cord injury when someone has weakened or flattened vertebra, vertebral body fractures can occur when there’s excess pressure weighing on the compromised vertebra.
What Causes a Fractured Vertebrae?
A vertebrae fracture, or spinal fracture, typically occurs as a side effect of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, in general, causes weakened bones and overall body architecture.
And, while osteoporosis is the biggest common contributor for most spinal fractures, a person could sustain a spinal fracture as a result of the significant force or high energy trauma paired with abnormal movement.
Additionally, spinal fractures occur due to the following:
- Car accidents
- Sports injuries
- Physical assault
- Incorrect lifting
Trauma is the second more common cause of vertebrae fractures. This injury can occur from the lumbar vertebrae to the cervical vertebra, or C1 to L2. This lies within the cauda equina. Other less common causes for spinal cord injuries include a gunshot wound or medical malpractice.
Other factors can contribute to a fractured spine, including radiation therapy, long-term use of steroids or illegal supplements, hyperthyroidism, chemotherapy, trauma, and cancer.
Low bone density can potentially be attributed to medications, low estrogen levels, anorexia, kidney disease, smoking, alcohol abuse, or proton pump inhibitors.
Personal risk factors for severe fractures include vitamin D deficiency, prolonged corticosteroid use, prolonged smoking, history of spinal cord injuries, over the age of 50, history or osteoporosis, gender, and osteopenia.
If you are experiencing severe pain that worsens with movement, even if you didn’t go through a traumatic accident, you should still schedule a physical exam with a local physician. Not all fractures are caused by the aforementioned causes, and surgical treatment may be necessary to prevent further injury.
How Do I Know If I Have a Fractured Vertebra?
The symptoms associated with compression fractures or any spinal cord injury will vary depending on the location and severity of back pain. Minor symptoms can include acute neck or back pain with movement. But, the most obvious indication of a spinal fracture is significant pain in the neck and back that worsens with movement.
Spinal cord compression fractures can start off as small cracks that can grow significantly over time.
Other symptoms of spinal fractures include:
- Severe pain
- Difficulty walking
- Weak limbs
- Urinary or bowel incontinence
- Uncontrolled muscle movements
- Limited bone growth or even bone loss, as the vertebra loses height
The best way to determine whether or not you have a spinal fracture is to schedule a physical examination with a local orthopedic physician. Your physical examination may also include several tests or scans to get a better image of your spinal cord. These tests can include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CAT scan (CT scan), x-ray, or a bone density test.
Signs of Multiple Compression Fractures
Victims of spinal cord injuries may experience multiple spinal fractures at once. So, how can you know for sure if you have a single fracture or if you have more extensive vertebral body fractures?
Symptoms associated with multiple fractures include:
- Hip pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Digestive issues
- Gradual bone shrinking or loss of height
Treatment Options for a Compression Fracture
Minimally Invasive Procedures for Fractured Vertebrae
For stable fractures, nonsurgical treatments or minimally invasive procedures are recommended.
Nonsurgical management of a stable fracture involves immobilization of the vertebral body in cervical bracing for up to 12 weeks. The purpose of bracing is to prevent deformity, to let fractures heal and to reduce pain.
An orthopedic surgeon or emergency medicine specialist may prescribe medications to control blood pressure, pain, muscle spasticity, and bladder or bowel dysfunction.
Surgical Procedures for Fractured Vertebrae
The spinal column is composed of 3 different sections: the posterior column, the middle column, and the anterior column.
A compression fracture involves a compromised anterior column. However, unstable burst fractures involve two or more compromised columns.
Physicians may also opt to have the bone fragments surgically repaired for fracture dislocations involving nerve damage or spinal tumors. This spine surgery is termed, “decompression surgery.”
Other common techniques for surgical treatment include kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.
Long-Term Effects of Fractured Vertebrae
The days and weeks following a severe spinal fracture are full of the unknown. How long is the pain going to last? Will you need surgery? Will you ever be able to pick up your children again? How much is this hospital stay going to cost?
The long-term effects of fractured vertebrae, spinal cord injuries, and other back injuries often bring devastating outcomes. In the most devastating cases, thoracic and lumbar spine injuries could lead to partial or complete paralysis. This could lead to a person’s inability to conceive children and uncontrolled muscle spasms.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for Fractured Vertebrae?
Vertebral fractures are common occurrences in major car accidents. This type of injury could result in a lifetime of emotional distress and physical pain.
If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, you have every legal right to file a personal injury claim for compensation. A personal injury lawsuit can help you get the compensation you need to recover.
If a person suffers a spinal cord injury from a car accident, slip and fall accident, or physical assault, they may be left unable to work and unable to provide for themselves and their family. In this case, they’ll need assistance seeking the compensation they’ll need to fulfill their needs for the rest of their life. The best way to accomplish this is by hiring an experienced spinal cord injury attorney.
The personal injury lawyers at Bailey, Johnson & Peck can fight for compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Physical therapy bills
- Lost wages
- In-home medical care
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- And more
Albany Back Injury Attorneys at Bailey, Johnson & Peck, P.C Can Help
A vertebral fracture can leave a victim with a lifetime of pain, medical expenses, and lost earnings. In order to build the best personal injury case, every aspect of the accident or assault should be looked over by an experienced personal injury attorney. At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, P.C., our attorneys will examine liability, lasting effects of the traumatic injury, as well as all potential damages.
Filing a personal injury claim as you’re recovering from any kind of injury is an intense task. Spinal injuries are catastrophic injuries that often leave the victim in a tremendous amount of pain.
At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, our personal injury attorneys know the lasting consequences of spinal injuries. We can help guide you through this legal process while you focus on healing. With more than 40 years experience serving the residents of Albany, you can trust the team at Bailey, Johnson & Peck to handle your personal injury claim. To schedule a free consultation in your case, call us today at 518-456-0082.