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Vertebral Fracture: Treatment, Surgery, Recovery, Rehab, Prevention, Coping

The treatment for vertebral fracture depends on severity of the fracture, type of fracture etc… This article deals about the treatment for vertebral fracture, surgery, recovery period/ healing time, rehabilitation, prevention, coping and lifestyle changes for vertebral fracture.

Treatment for Vertebral Fracture

Treatment for Vertebral Fracture

Treatment for vertebral fracture is not standard but depends on:

  • The other injuries that the patient sustained and their treatment procedure.
  • The nature and type of fracture that the patient sustained.

Once all the severe injuries have been stabilized, the doctor will then evaluate the vertebral fracture to determine whether surgery is required.

  1. Treatment for Flexion Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    Treatment without surgery or conservative treatment is the first choice for vertebral fracture. Not all vertebral fractures require surgery. Most flexion fracture patterns can be treated through the use of medical corsets. These are worn for 6 to 12 weeks. This is coupled with physiotherapy where physical activity is increased gradually thus avoiding problems after the treatment.

    Surgical Treatment Flexion Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    Surgery is mostly recommended for unstable vertebral fractures that have:

    • Fragmentation of multiple bones.1
    • Significant reduction in the height of the vertebrae.
    • Too much bending or curvature at the point of injury.
    • Major damage to the nerves resulting from bone pieces poking the spinal cord.

    Surgical treatment for vertebral fracture involves stabilizing the fracture and decompressing the spinal canal. This decompression procedure is referred to as laminectomy where the doctor gets rid of the spinal cord compression by removing the lamina and every other thing that is compressing the spinal cord. This gives the spinal cord room to get back to its position.

    This decompression procedure for vertebral fracture is done by creating an incision either on the side or back based on the doctor’s assessment of the spine. The two approaches produce the same result allowing the doctor to remove the structures applying pressure on the spinal cord safely without causing any other injuries.

  2. Treatment for Extension Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    Extension fracture patterns for vertebral fracture are treated after the doctor determines whether the bones can be put back together through bracing as well as the point of the spine failure.

    Nonsurgical treatment or conservative treatment is an option for vertebral fracture. If the extension fracture occurred only on the vertebral body, it can be treated without going into surgery by use of a medical corset or cast. The doctor keeps a close observation of the patient during the 12 week treatment process.

    Surgical Treatment for Extension Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    Surgery is required if the injuries go beyond the vertebrae and affect the back ligaments of the spine. This is necessary to stabilize the vertebral fracture and prevent further damage.

  3. Treatment for Rotation Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    Treatment without surgery or conservative treatment might be possible for rotation fracture pattern in vertebral fracture. Traverse fractures are mostly treated through physiotherapy where the patient increases motion gradually while being monitored closely. Bracing may or may not be used depending on the patient’s comfort levels.

    Surgical Treatment Rotation Fracture Pattern in Vertebral Fracture

    The upper and lower back dislocates where the injury is very severe. These injuries can be very unpredictable and could lead to major spinal damage as well as damage to the nerves. These kinds of injuries can only be treated through surgery. Surgery could, however, take time to be implemented because they are usually accompanied by injuries that can cause death if not treated immediately.

Surgery for Vertebral Fracture

Surgery for vertebral fracture is performed in order to:

  • Restore the fractured bones to their original and rightful position.
  • Remove pressure from the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Restore the patient’s movement.

Based on the type of fracture, the surgery may be performed through the side, front or back or all three. The instruments used by doctors for the surgery include: rods, metal cages to keep the patient stable and metal screws.

Surgery for Vertebral Fracture

Recovery Period/Healing Time for Vertebral Fracture

Recovery period/healing time is fully dependent on the treatment method used and as such talk to your doctor concerning the healing time. The doctor is also best placed to give you advice on matters like the risk of recurrence so do consult your doctor.

Rehabilitation for Vertebral Fracture

Rehabilitation is necessary after healing whether vertebral fracture treatment was surgical or non-surgical. Rehabilitation aims at:

  • Eliminating pain.
  • Restoring the patient’s pre-fracture state.
  • Returning the patient’s ability to move around with ease.

Rehabilitation can be done through inpatient or outpatient physiotherapy sessions depending on the doctor’s recommendation.

Osteoporosis puts you at a high risk of fracture recurrence and as such the doctor may recommend treatment that factor in the strengthening of the bones.

Sometimes, though, rehabilitation can be delayed or complicated based on issues like paralysis or spine deformation that is quite progressive.

Prevention of Vertebral Fracture

Vertebral fractures can be prevented by having a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D as well as regular exercises to strengthen the bones.2 You can have your bone mineral density tested at the hospital if you like in order to understand your bone strength and density. Take necessary measures to maintain strong bones regardless of your age.

Coping with Vertebral Fracture

Coping with vertebral fracture is highly challenging. Pain varies from person to person and so is their reaction to it. Pain relievers vary because different relievers work for different people. Pain is also psychological and can increase based on other stressors in life. Pain can dampen one’s moods making it even harder to deal with. Pain is, however, manageable and many methods to relieve pain exist and most fracture patients recover fully and resume normal life.

Fractures could bring about long term problems requiring support and help. When the elderly fracture their hips, their mobility is limited and thus they require services like physiotherapy and occupational therapy to regain their ability to be mobile.

Vertebral fracture affecting the spine can cause a reduction in height as well as compression of the lungs and stomach leading to shortness of breath and digestion difficulties which can reduce the quality of life. Following the doctor prescribed guidelines will help immensely in coping with vertebral fracture.

Lifestyle Changes for Vertebral Fracture

Lifestyle changes can help in preventing the recurrences of vertebral fracture and make the bones stronger in case if the fracture is caused by diseases such as osteoporosis. Vertebral fracture can be prevented by creating stronger bones. For women, majority of the bone strength is created before the age of 25 years thus the subsequent years require maintaining the bone density and strength.

The following lifestyle changes will help you maintain strong bones once you are completely recovered from the vertebral fracture:

  • Take foods rich in vitamin D, calcium and proteins and take supplements if necessary as it is a great life style change for vertebral fractures. Also spend some time in the sun for the vitamin D.
  • Visit your doctor for osteoporosis treatment options. It also important to seek medical advice in case of early menopause.
  • Do exercises like walking, running, playing tennis among other sports. This is a lifestyle change which can help in long term in strengthening the bones.
  • Be safe around your home by eliminating obstacles that could result in falls. Also drive carefully to reduce the risk of car accidents.
  • Improve your balance by doing weight lifting with your arms and legs which will also increase your strength.
  • Quit smoking.3
  • Reduce your alcohol intake or quite altogether.4


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 20, 2019

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