Treating Transverse Process Fractures

If you follow the National Football League, there’s a chance that you’ve heard the term transverse process fracture used recently. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr suffered a transverse process fracture less than two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos, and Tony Romo suffered the same injury back when he was still playing.

A transverse process fracture is an injury that affects a vertebrae on your spine. If you take a look at the picture on the right, the transverse process of the vertebrae are the bony nubs or protrusions on the back of the bone. There is a transverse process on each side of every vertebrae in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar portions of the spine.

A transverse process fracture occurs when part of the protrusion is cracked. It’s not a super common injury because a couple of different factors and forces typically need to occur in order for the transverse process to fracture, and the area is usually well-protected by muscles in the area. Generally, the area will be exposed to fracture if a person absorbs acute trauma to the area while they are being twisted or bent. Derek Carr’s transverse process fracture was a textbook example of how the forces need to align for this type of injury to occur.

Transverse Process Fracture Symptoms and Treatment

Transverse process fractures are categorized by the following symptoms:

One of the bright spots about this type of fracture is that it is unlikely to jeopardize the stability of the spine or affect the spinal cord, since the core part of the vertebrae remains unaffected.

Treating the condition begins with an accurate medical diagnosis. If you have sharp spine pain after falling off a ladder or after taking a hit in football, swing into a spine specialist’s office. The doctor will conduct a physical exam to look for swelling and to locate the area of pain so that x-rays can concentrate on a specific range of vertebrae. An x-ray will help to determine if a transverse fracture or another type of spinal fracture has occurred, but there’s also the possibility that you’ll undergo an MRI or CT scan to look for any soft tissue damage.

If imaging scans reveal that you are only dealing with a transverse fracture, consider yourself fortunate, because transverse fractures are typically easily managed with conservative care. That vast majority of cases do not need surgery, and you may be able to recover with rest and gradual increases in physical therapy and range of motion exercises. Some doctors also recommend soft back braces to help protect the spine and limit movement while the transverse process heals. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help to manage any discomfort while you recover. In the rare instances where surgery is needed, the surgeon can usually stabilize the fracture site using minimally invasive techniques, which help to speed up recovery time.

So if you’ve suffered a spinal injury or you want Dr. Chang to take a look at your spinal column, reach out to his clinic today by clicking here.

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