Spinal Fractures


Spinal fractures are painful injuries that occur when your spine is overloaded. This can occur from an acute trauma, like during athletic activity or in a car accident, or it can simply occur during more normal activities in older adults if osteoporosis is an underlying condition. Routine actions like sneezing or coughing can lead to a spinal fracture if osteoporosis has done serious damage to bone density. Here’s a closer look at the condition and how it’s treated.

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Spinal Fracture Prevalence and Symptoms

Spinal fractures are actually one of the more common injuries that occur in older populations. These types of fractures are twice as common as hip fractures and three times more common than breast cancer. Postmenopausal women are at the greatest risk for spinal fractures, and data suggests that one in two women over the age of 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related spinal fracture at some point in their life. Every year more than a million people suffer a spinal fracture.

When bone density decreases, people are at a heightened risk for spinal fracture, but sometimes they don’t realize they’ve suffered a break because they didn’t suffer a major trauma, like a fall. As we mentioned above, actions like coughing or sneezing can cause spinal fractures in some populations, so even if you don’t think you’ve suffered a fracture, if you’re battling these symptoms, you’ll want to head into a spine specialist.

  • Sudden onset of back pain
  • Back pain that lingers for days
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in the spine
  • Pain that worsens when standing or walking
  • Limited spinal mobility

Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures are typically diagnosed with an X-ray, but other imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan may be used to determine if any of the surrounding structures have been damaged. The majority of spinal fractures are treated with conservative treatment, which may include rest, pain medication, vitamin supplements and external bracing.

If conservative treatment fails or pain persists, surgery may be your best option. There are three main types of operations to treat a spinal fracture:

Your surgeon will walk you through your options and explain what is the best method based on a variety of factors, including fracture damage, fracture location and your individual goals.

Neglecting to have your fractured spine surgically corrected can have numerous adverse outcomes, including:

  • Reduced mobility
  • Loss of balance
  • Increased risk of falls
  • Reduced activity
  • Reduced ability to care for yourself
  • Chronic pain/fatigue
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Spinal deformity
  • Increased spinal curvature

St. Paul Spine Fracture Surgeon

In the end, it’s important to talk with a skilled spine surgeon about your back pain. Not only can surgery improve your quality of life and reduce pain, but ignoring the problem can make it worse. Contact us for a consultation today!


David Chang, MD-PhD, DABNS
1835 County Road C West, Suite 150
Roseville, MN 55113
Phone: 651-219-7292
Fax: 651-430-3827

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