Common Spinal Fracture Questions

Written by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

What is a spinal fracture?
A spinal fracture is when you break a bone in your spine—that's the basic definition. Your spinal column is made up of vertebra stacked one on top of each other. (You can learn more about this in the Anatomy of Spinal Fractures article.) The vertebrae—the bones in your spine—can break, just like other bones in your body. However, spinal fractures can be more severe than breaking other bones in your body because a spinal fracture can cause trauma to the spinal cord.
What causes a spinal fracture?
Spinal fractures are caused by trauma or by conditions that weaken the bones:

Trauma

Conditions That Weaken the Bones

What are some non-surgical ways to deal with a spinal fracture?
Not every spinal fracture will require surgery. In fact, the majority of fractures are treated with non-surgical treatments, such as:

Will I need surgery?
Surgery for spinal fractures is very dependent on the type of fracture, if there's neurologic (nerve) injury, and how unstable or out of line the spine is. Because there are multiple factors that go into the surgery decision—and every case comes with its own complications—it's difficult to give precise guidelines of when surgery will be performed and what type of surgery will be done for traumatic spinal fractures.

The surgeon will make the best recommendation for surgery.

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