Spinal Compression vs. Burst vs. Flexion-Distraction Fractures

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 14, 2016

Spinal Compression vs. Burst vs. Flexion-Distraction Fractures

Spinal fractures come in many forms, and while they are all going to be painful, some fractures are much more complex than others. Today, we’re going to explain what’s going on inside your body when you suffer different types of spinal fractures. Here’s a quick look at some of the ways you can fracture your spine.

Compression Fracture

A compression fracture occurs when a vertebrae cannot handle the amount of stress that it has been put under. Oftentimes this type of fracture is more common in people who have weakened bones. Patients with osteoporosis or bone cancer may have more brittle bones than a healthy adult, so large amounts of stress or impact can cause a compression fracture to occur. Most patients describe the pain as “knife-like,” and it may also be accompanied by numbness, tingling or loss of bladder control. Oftentimes a compression fracture can be treated without surgery, but not always.

Wedge Fracture

A wedge fracture is a subset of a compression fracture. A wedge fracture occurs when part of your vertebra – typically the anterior (front) part – collapses under the pressure or stress and fractures in a wedge-like shape.

Burst Fracture

A burst fracture is generally more extreme than a compression fracture. These types of fractures occur during a high-impact collision, and oftentimes they happen during a car accident or when someone falls from a great height. Unlike a compression fracture, a burst fracture occurs in multiple places in the vertebra. The burst fracture is also known as a crush injury, meaning that the bone is crushed and fragments can spread, which could damage the spinal cord. Surgery is needed in the majority of burst fractures to ensure adequate healing.

Flexion-Distraction Fractures

A flexion-distraction fracture occurs when your body is pushed forward and overstressed, so this is another injury that is most common during car accidents. When the sudden force forward puts incredible stress on your spine, it can cause a vertebra to fracture. Sometimes a flexion-distraction fracture can heal without surgery, but other times it is best managed with an operation.

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