Spinal compression fractures occur when a vertebra breaks due to excessive compression or pressure on the bone. Since pressure can be applied in so many different areas and in a variety of ways in our spine, there are a number of different ways in which a compression fracture can occur. So today, we are going to look at the different types of compression fractures of the spine, and we’ll explain how each is cared for.
Types Of Spinal Compression Fractures
Before we dive into the specific types of fractures that can occur, we want to note that all of the following injuries can be classified as either a stable or unstable fracture. As you probably guessed, unstable fractures are more concerning than stable fractures, because unstable fractures involve bones that are likely to heal incorrectly, heal in such a way that it can affect nearby structures, or leave a person predisposed to a subsequent fracture. On the other hand, stable fractures are expected to heal correctly and aren’t likely to cause future problems in the spinal canal. So keep that in mind as we look at the different types of spinal compression fractures.
There are three common types of vertebral compression fractures – Burst fractures, Crush fractures and Wedge fractures. We’ll dive into those three below.
Burst Fractures – A burst fracture is typically the most problematic because during this type of fracture, the vertebra is overstressed and “bursts” out in many different directions. This can send pieces of bone into the nearby spinal tissues or into the spinal cord itself. Burst fractures aren’t likely to heal correctly on their own, and medical assistance is typically required right away to ensure any potential damage is contained. Surgery is typically required to fix burst fractures.
Crush Fractures – A crush fracture occurs when the fracture breaks through the entire vertebra, not just one section. When these fractures occur, the bone tends to collapse in on itself. While it sounds complex, crush fractures are typically stable, and as long as it is not threatening nearby structures, they can heal successfully without operating.
Wedge Fractures – A wedge fracture is the least serious and thankfully the most common type of compression fracture. This type of fracture occurs when the front of the vertebra collapses due to pressure, but the back of the bone remains intact, resulting in a wedge-like shape. Most wedge fractures are stable, but they should be regularly monitored because if they heal incorrectly, it can cause changes with your posture.
Treatment for any of these fractures depends on a number of different factors, including the type, location, stability and size of the fracture. Some of these fractures heal with rest and pain medications, while others may need multiple surgeries to ensure they heal correctly.
If you have injured your back and want a specialist to take a look at it, reach out to the experts at Midwest Spine & Brain Institute. Dr. Chang has a wealth of experience diagnosing and treating spinal conditions like fractures and disc issues, and he’s confident he can help get you back on the path to recovery. Contact his office today.