A Broken Back Guide

A broken back injury sounds like a serious injury, and in many cases, it is. However, in some cases, it is actually a mild injury that can go unnoticed for some time, before the symptoms become acuter. This broken back guide will cover all of the signs and symptoms of a broken back, how they are caused, treated and what the prognosis is.

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What is a Broken Back?

A broken back bone is defined as a fracture in one of the bones of the spine. In most cases, a very serious injury, which should always be treated by medical professionals, even if there is little pain or discomfort.

Broken Back Key Facts

A broken back or lumbar spine fracture is a very different injury to other types of fractures such as an arm or a leg. When a fracture of the vertebrae occurs, it can pinch or even cut the spinal nerves or spinal cord.

The injury itself can range from extremely minor, being almost painless, to one of the most severe injuries of all, causing in extreme cases, paralysis of the entire body below the break point. Minor fractures of the back are treated fairly simply, with rest being the main treatment. More serious cases may require multiple surgeries to correct, and even then, the patient may never fully recover.

Our back or spine is made up of 33 separate bones that are called vertebrae. This is the primary vertical support for the whole skeleton. The spine flexes in multiple directions, allowing us to bend up and down, and swivel our upper torso. The spinal cord runs inside the spine, acting as the main trunk of the nerves linking every part of the body to the brain.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Back?

In some cases, the symptoms of a broken back can be hard to spot at first. In some spinal fracture types there is often very little pain at first, but the pain will begin to get worse over time, eventually announcing itself as a sharp, almost unbearable pain if left untreated long enough. This means it is very easy to overlook a broken back at first and convince yourself it is just a twinge, some random pain. Understanding the symptoms of a fractured vertebra is important, so you do not make this mistake. Broken back symptoms include:

  • Pain in the back, close to the break. This may be a mild pain, or it may be an agonizing pain.
  • Numbness or tingling in one or more limbs such as arms, hands, legs, etc.
  • Seemingly random muscle spasms.
  • Changes in bowel and bladder movement.
  • Some form of loss of paralysis or limited ability to use arms, legs, etc.

As we can see, some of these symptoms are very easy to overlook or discard as random manifestations. Therefore, if you suffer any of these symptoms you must seek medical advice.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Back?

There are many ways that a broken back can occur, however, some are far more common than others and these include:

  • Motor vehicle accident – 45% of all broken back cases are caused by the trauma shock encountered in a car/motorcycle accident.
  • Slips, trips or falls – 20% of all broken back cases are caused by a person tripping or falling over. This is the most common cause for fractured vertebrae treatment elderly people encounter.
  • Acts of violence – 15% of all broken back cases are caused by physical violence. This can be through blunt trauma (such as a person being kicked whilst laying on the floor) or via some more exotic means, such as a gunshot injury.
  • Sporting injuries – 15% of all broken back cases are caused by an injury sustained whilst a person is involved in some kind of sporting activity.

The graph below will help you to visualize this information more simply.

Causes of a Broken Back

Causes of a Broken Back

When Should You Seek Medical Care for a Broken Back?

One of the primary symptoms of a broken back is physical pain. This will likely start as a twinge or ache in the back and could mean that you need spinal fracture treatment. If carrying out any of the activities below causes pain in your back, you should seek medical attention immediately.

  • Lifting moderately light loads, such as a bag of shopping.
  • Bending over to perform an action such as picking something up from the floor or putting on a sock.
  • Loading bags or suitcases into the boot of a car.
  • Moving a bed mattress whilst changing bed linen.

These are examples of trivial tasks requiring very little effort, that will cause back pain if you have a fractured back. Use them as a guideline, if you perform similar activities, and you have pain, then see a doctor immediately.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

As part of the process of diagnosis, preceding fractured vertebrae NHS treatment for a broken back, a broken back x ray or MRI scan will be called for. Your doctor will use the results to produce a broken bone report. This report is used as a basis for working out which broken back treatment is best for you. You are entirely within your rights to request a copy of this report.

For many people, we can arrange for them to receive an entirely free expert orthopaedic assessment of this broken bone report. This free expert medical opinion could help to highlight ways that your treatment could be improved and your recovery from a broken back quicker. Call us now, and we can let you know immediately if there is a free expert orthopaedic assessment available in your area.

How is a Broken Back Diagnosed?

To x ray broken back injuries is the primary way that they are diagnosed. This is an effective procedure for discovering actual fractures in the vertebrae. Often, several x-rays will be taken to show the spine from different angles, so the effects of the fracture can be seen.

When an x-ray isn’t capable of showing the fractures, then a Computed Tomography (CT) scan can be used. This is a special procedure, which uses two-dimensional images of the spine, to build up a layered picture of the vertebrae.

In some cases, neither an x-ray or a CT scan will be able to uncover the fracture in the vertebrae. In these cases, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan is used. It is a good procedure for showing up minute fractures and also damage to the tissue around the broken vertebrae.

How is a Broken Back Treated?

Broken back treatment will generally begin with the patient being given painkillers to manage the pain. Once this has been done, the nursing staff will attempt to immobilize the patient, so that no more damage can be done to the back while treatment is being administered.

In the case of a simple fracture, a broken vertebrae back brace will be applied. This acts in the same way that a plaster cast does for other types of fractures. It keeps the spine immobile (to some extent, not fully) whilst the break is healing, and it helps to reduce pain by restricting movement of the spine. It also keeps the spine aligned so that the bones knit back together straight.

For complex fractures, one of two surgical procedures may be used to aid recovery:

  • Fusion – where the broken vertebra is physically connected to adjacent vertebrae using a bone graft as well as hardware such as pins, rods and screws.
  • Instrumentation – is similar to fusion, but does not use a bone graft, only the surgical hardware.

Once these surgical procedures are completed, a broken back brace will be applied.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

With NHS vertebral fracture treatment guidelines, the emphasis is upon recovering from a broken back as well as possible, but in the cheapest way that treatment can be provided. Whilst there is nothing wrong with broken back NHS treatment, some private medical care could get you back on your feet faster.

It is highly likely that there will be one or more offers of free private medical care in your area, which could shorten your fractured vertebrae recovery time. Call us now, so we can let you know if we think you are eligible for any free private medical care based on your postcode.

Caring for Your Broken Back at Home

When answering the question, how long does it take to recover from a fractured vertebrae? Much of the answer depends on just how well you take care of your broken back once you are sent home from the hospital. Below are some tips for self-care of a fractured spine:

  • Rest is the single most beneficial thing when it comes to healing a broken back. You should try not to move your back, and definitely should never apply stress, such as bending down or lifting something. Doctors recommend that laying flat, with pillows under your knees, is the best way to rest a broken back, at least for the first few weeks until the injury starts to heal.
  • Once you have finished taking the prescription painkillers your doctor may have given you, then you can use over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol to manage the pain.
  • Do not be tempted to walk on a fractured spine too soon. Yes, this means you will likely be bedridden for some time. Yet this is the only way to rest a back during the crucial initial healing stage in the first two weeks.
  • Once your back has begun to heal, you should speak to your doctor, to ask whether there is anything you should be doing, to help your fracture spine heal better. He may recommend mild lumbar compression fracture exercises or similar.
  • If at any time the pain increases or you begin to feel sensations such as numbness, cold or pins and needles in your extremities, you must contact your doctor immediately.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

You could be eligible to claim some kind of additional medical care or supplies to augment the spinal compression fracture treatment already given by the NHS.

For example, you may be able to receive a specially fitted, custom-made broken back brace to help with your healing.

Call us now, and we can let you know within a minute whether there are any such free medical supplies available in your area.

Follow Up for a Broken Back

When answering the question, how long does it take for a fractured vertebrae to heal? this will depend on how you progress with your outpatient treatment.

Initially, you will be sent home from the hospital to rest, until the bones begin to knit back together. Once you have stabilised and can be moved safely, you will need to visit the hospital several times over the course of your recovery.

Primarily, these check-ups will be to make sure that your back is mending properly, and that no complications have set in. However, towards the end of your recovery, you will begin to discuss rehabilitation, and how you are going to regain full mobility once the back brace comes off.

How Long Does a Broken Back Take to Heal?

To answer the question, how long does it take to recover from a broken back? the answer depends on the severity of the injury. Simple fractures of the spine will generally heal within 8 to 10 weeks.

More severe injuries, especially those that required surgery to correct before the break could begin healing, could take much longer to heal.

Although 8 to 10 weeks is the stated healing time, you need to factor in rehabilitation time. The time needed to get back on your feet, and build strength and dexterity again to get you back to where you were before you fractured your spine. This can take many months of physiotherapy to achieve.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

Full broken back recovery time is dependant upon how long it takes you to recuperate fully once the back brace comes off after 8 to 10 weeks. You will need some form of physiotherapy to build up strength in your back and regain your confidence in performing everyday actions such as walking.

We may be able to find you some free private physiotherapy to help you recover fully from your broken back much faster. Call us now, so we can tell you whether you are eligible to claim some free physio in your area.

What is the Prognosis for a Broken Back?

The prognosis for a broken back will always depend upon the severity of the fracture. For simple fractures, the prognosis is good. You should be back on your feet with 10 weeks, and following a month or two of physiotherapy, regain full function of your spine, and your normal life will resume.

However, for severe fractures, the prognosis may be direr. If the spinal cord was severed or damaged for example, which resulted in paralysis of the lower limbs, it is unlikely the patient will ever regain the ability to move their legs.

Overall, most people make a fairly good recovery from a broken back. Rare are the cases that result in full or partial paralysis.

What are the Possible Complications of a Broken Back?

As with any fracture injury, there is always the possibility your broken back recovery will be plagued by one or more complications. Unfortunately, with a fractured spine, there are many potential complications that could occur, including:

  • Infection – specifically an infection caused by surgery carried out to realign the fractured spine before it could heal.
  • Trapped nerves – if your vertebrae shift, it could trap one of the spinal nerves. This will require surgery to correct.
  • Nonunion – when a severely fractured vertebra has two parts too far apart for them to begin healing.
  • Rotation – when the two parts of a completely broken vertebra heal crookedly.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

During your broken back recovery you may suspect that you have not been treated correctly, or that some form of medical malpractice has taken place. If you do suspect this, you need to arm yourself with the facts about your broken bone, so you can confirm your suspicions. The websites below all give more detailed information on spine fractures:

Paralysis Information – NHS

Back Pain Information – NHS

Spinal Injury Information – University Hospital Southampton

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Back?

Even though your broken back recovery may have been good, you may still suffer from one or more long-term health affects sometime in the future, maybe years down the line. Such conditions include:

  • Loss of height – every time the spine is fractured, it gets a little shorter. If you fracture several vertebrae, this effect becomes noticeable as a loss in height.
  • A curved spine – or to give it the proper medical term, Kyphosis. This happens when one or more vertebrae have collapsed.
  • Gastric problems – if your spine is shortened, it will affect the function of your stomach and cause digestive problems.
  • Raspatory problems – if your spine is shortened, it will affect the function of your lungs and cause raspatory problems.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

Have you been unlucky enough to suffer a broken back? If you have, then you will likely be glad to know that there may be some kind of free private medical care that you are eligible to receive in your area.

This could be something simple, such as medical supplies, a free broken back brace for example. If could be that you could gain access to a free private consultant to produce something like a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured elbow broken back report. It could even be direct medical care such as free private physio to help you rehabilitate and recuperate once your back brace comes off.

If you would like to find out what free private medical care is available in your area, all you need to do is give us a quick call. Once we know your postcode, we can tell you if we think you are eligible for any free private medical treatment in your area.