Spine Fracture

What is it?

A fracture in the spine is a break or a collapse of a bone in any part of the spinal column. Broadly, there are three types of spinal fracture.

  1. Compression fractures can occur when more pressure than a bone can bear is applied, causing it to break.  
  2. Dislocation fractures are when the ligaments and/or the discs connecting vertebrae are stretched or torn, causing bones to misalign. 
  3. Fracture-dislocation fractures can occur when bones and ligaments are broken. A spinal fracture can cause irreversible damage, such as complete paralysis.

Why does it occur?

Spinal fractures can be caused by high-impact injuries, such as a road accident, falling heavily or while taking part in certain sports. Decreasing bone mass due to, for example, osteoporosis, can make the vertebrae more susceptible to fracture, as can cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hyperthyroidism, and the long-term use of corticosteroids (steroid hormones). Anyone with compromised bone mass is more at risk of fracture, even during day-to-day activities such as bending down to pick up something. 

What are the symptoms?

These can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. Primarily this can be experienced as mild to acute back pain that worsens when you move. Other symptoms include back or neck pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, muscle spasms, bowel and/or bladder malfunction, and paralysis. 

How is it diagnosed?

Your consultant will take a full  medical history and ask general questions about your lifestyle, as well as giving you a physical examination. Imaging, such as x-rays, MRI and CT scans, will often be requested so your consultant can obtain a clear look at the bone structure of your spine. 

How is it treated?

Non-surgical treatments

These include short periods of rest, painkilling medicines, calcium and vitamin D supplements, and the use of braces and corsets. We may also discuss some lifestyle changes that may help to alleviate any specific pain or discomfort.

Surgical treatment

In cases where there is a need for surgery, the most common minimally-invasive procedures are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, during which bone cement is injected into a fractured or weakened vertebra in order to repair and strengthen it.

In some very rare cases, spine fusion surgery may be necessary.

Treatment options


Spinal injections




Spinal fusion

The One Orthopaedics team specialists

Adam Way

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon FRCS (Tr&Orth), Spine

Daniela Tonucci

Pain Management Consultant FRCA FFPMRCA