The Three Types of Spinal Compression Fractures and How They Affect You

The spine endures a significant amount of stress each day just from carrying your body weight. Over time, weakening of the spine or trauma can cause fractures in the spinal vertebrae, called compression fractures.

Depending on the type of compression fracture you experience, you may require specialized treatment. Posture Works in San Francisco, CA and Denver, CO can help you identify your fracture and determine the best course of action for healing.

Understanding spinal compression fractures

A spinal compression fracture occurs when immense pressure is placed on a spinal vertebra, causing it to cave in on itself. Fractures can be caused by many things, including osteoporosis, which weakens the bone, and sudden traumatic injuries.

Compression fractures are most common in the middle and lower back (thoracic and lumbar spinal regions) because of the extra weight the vertebrae in these areas carry. There are three distinct types of spinal compression fractures:

  • Wedge fracture;
  • Crush fracture;
  • Burst fracture.

Each of these types has unique characteristics and may need to be treated in a particular way for optimal healing and pain relief.

Wedge fractures

Wedge fractures are the most common type of compression fractures. The fracture gets its name because the vertebra typically caves in at the front but not in the back, creating a wedge shape in the spine.

Wedge fractures can remain stable within the spine, maintaining support and mobility. However, due to the change in vertebral shape, the fracture may cause deformities in the spinal position, including a hunchback, or kyphosis.

Crush fractures

Crush fractures are similar to wedge fractures, except both the front and back of the vertebra collapse. These fractures are also generally stable.

Burst fractures

Burst fractures are the most dangerous and serious form of compression fractures. When the vertebra experiences a burst fracture, the vertebra collapses and “bursts,” sending fractured pieces of bone out in multiple directions.

These bone fragments can get lodged in nerves or other tissues surrounding the spine, requiring immediate medical attention. If left unaddressed, burst fractures may lead to more serious complications of the spine or surrounding tissues.

What compression fractures might mean for you

The necessary treatment for your compression fracture will largely depend on your symptoms and the type of fracture you have sustained.

Not everyone who experiences a spinal fracture will have symptoms of pain. Some people may not notice anything wrong at all, while others may have tremendous amounts of pain, as well as pain or numbness radiating to the arms or legs. Fractures that are not painful may go unnoticed until they heal over time.

Painful fractures should be examined by a professional to determine the severity and the fracture type. If you have a wedge or crush fracture, physical therapy and/or chiropractic treatment may help alleviate pain and strengthen the back to prevent deformity and destabilization. If you have a burst fracture, you may require surgery to remove bone fragments and stabilize the spine.

If you believe you’ve suffered a spinal compression fracture, visit Posture Works in San Francisco, CA and Denver, CO for an examination. Our spinal experts can help identify the problem and create a Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) treatment plan to potentially mitigate pain and promote healing.

Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.