Life After a Spinal Fracture

A spinal fracture, or “broken back,” is a major trauma that can leave you in serious condition — but it doesn't have to be the end of your life. With the right treatment, you can find your balance again after the trauma of your spinal fracture. 

Dr. Benjamin Cohen has the experience you can count on to get you back to daily life, with your back healed and stronger than ever. Here’s a look at some of the possible causes of a spinal fracture, options for treatment you may receive from Dr. Cohen, and the road to recovery.

How spinal fractures happen

Spinal fractures occur when one or more of your vertebrae — which are the 33 small bones of your backbone that enclose and protect your spine — break. Usually, spinal fractures happen after bad falls or other traumas like car crashes. Internal problems, like osteoporosis, spinal tumors, or malnutrition, can also result in vertebral fractures. 

Consequences of a spinal fracture

If you have severe pain at your fracture site, especially if the pain gets noticeably worse when you move, you may have a broken back injury. You may also experience numbness and muscle weakness if your nerves become compressed by displaced bones.

Even while broken, however, your vertebrae may have continued to protect your spinal cord. Your prognosis after your spinal injury will depend on the condition of your spinal cord. With early treatment, you can protect your nerves and support the integrity of your spine.

Treatment options for a spinal fracture

Depending on your injury, different treatment options may be right for you. From external braces to surgical options, Dr. Cohen can help you determine the right course of action for your spinal fracture.

Dr. Cohen may recommend surgical treatment to realign your bones or relieve pressure. Some of the procedures he specializes in include:

Balloon kyphoplasty: A minimally invasive procedure that uses a balloon to lift your vertebrae, producing a cavity that can be filled with bone cement to stabilize the injury.

Vertebroplasty: Also minimally invasive, involves injecting liquid bone cement into the damaged vertebrae itself, relieving pain and stabilizing the injury.

Lumbar vertebral body replacement: A procedure where Dr. Cohen removes the fractured area completely, implanting a metal cage filled with bone graft materials to stimulate new bone growth.

When you come in with a broken back injury, Dr. Cohen examines you physically and reviews your symptoms and medical history. Depending on your unique case, you may need tests including a spinal X-ray, a CT scan, or an MRI. Dr. Cohen may also run neurological tests on your reflexes, movement, and sensation to check for nerve damage.

Recovering from a spinal fracture

Whether or not you have surgery, you'll need to wear braces for around 8-12 weeks. Braces on your back and neck can help relieve pressure and keep your spine straight while it heals. “Halos” (rings that go around your head that are attached to a vest) may also be needed to stabilize your injury at first. Without a brace, you risk developing a hunchback posture, as well as further pain problems later on.

After your braces come off, 5-6 weeks of physical therapy will restore your back to strength. Depending on the severity of your injury, you might be able to return to normal life pretty quickly after you finish your PT, with just some stiffness to remind you of the experience.

If your injury is more severe, you may need months or years to return to complete health. For some patients, life changes forever after a spinal fracture. If your recovery lasts for a long time, or remains partial, adaptive technologies and options can improve your independence and quality of life. Dr. Cohen can support you through the whole process.

If you have a recent spinal fracture, or if you're dealing with complications after a fracture that haven't resolved, contact Dr. Cohen today. He treats spinal trauma patients from his Garden City, New York office. To schedule your initial appointment, call our office.

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