fall causing a fracture of the vertebra

Vertebra fracture: How to treat it? (Healing time)

Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine 

In this article we are going to talk about the fracture of the vertebrate, its causes, its symptoms as well as solutions to cure it. We will also talk about healing time, and how to optimize it to get back to business as soon as possible.

Spine Definition and Anatomy

In humans, the spine is considered the axis of the body. It is a strong yet elastic system that serves to stabilize the internal organs and perform certain static functions and also allows movement. It consists of 24 vertebrae :

  • Sept vertebrae cervical,
  • Twelve thoracic vertebrae,
  • Five lumbar vertebrae,
  • Sacrum (fusion of 5 cruciform vertebrae),
  • Four to five coccygeal vertebrae.
spine and lumbar spine anatomy

Each vertebra is made up of a vertebral body inside which is the spinal cord allowing to distribute the nervous flow, and of a bony relief called spinous process. Between each vertebra, a intervertebral disc is present to facilitate sliding against each other.

What is a vertebral fracture?

La vertebra fracture is a fracture that occurs on one or more vertebrae regardless of its location: dorsal, lumbar or cervical. A fracture of the vertebra can affect the transverse process, the spinous process, bodies or the vertebral arch. It is usually the result of a shock or trauma that deforms the vertebra and reduces its height.

If it touches the first cervical vertebra (C1, or atlas), it is called Jefferson fracture. If it touches the odontoid prcoessus of the axis (second cervical vertebra or C2), we speak of odontoid fracture.

In general, we can distinguish two types of fractures of the vertebra depending on whether the spinal cord is affected or not:

  • Stable fracture: this type of fracture of the vertebra does not affect the spinal cord ;
  • Unstable fracture: in this case, each movement can cause a movement of bone debris that can damage the spinal cord. The risk of neurological damage such as paralysis is then higher.

Causes of vertebral fracture

The causes of a fracture of the vertebra are diverse. We can distinguish :

car accident causing vertebra fracture
  • The trauma: traffic accident, fall or gunshot wound;
  • osteoporosis: it is a disease characterized by a decrease in the resistance of the bones thus favoring fractures. It is caused by deficiencies in certain minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. In this case, the vertebra is unable to withstand great pressure on the spine, which causes fractures. It is more common in elderly. This kind of pathological fracture usually occur spontaneously after even minimal effort. In this case, we are talking about vertebral compaction or compression fracture.
  • cancers: sarcomas or metastases of the spine can weaken the vertebra and cause fractures. These types of cancer weaken the structure of the vertebra by attacking the vertebral body.

Symptoms of vertebra fracture

The fracture of the vertebra is manifested by various symptoms depending on its position and severity. As a rule, the main symptoms of vertebral fracture are:

lower back pain
  • Sharp pain and continues at the level of the back and in particular at the level of the damaged vertebra as well as at the level of the adjacent vertebrae. Depending on the severity of the fracture, it may prevent any movement of the back. The pain can be accentuated with the effort and minimized with rest.
  • Printing loss of stability;
  • Tingling and numbness which may radiate to the legs and arms;
  • If the spinal cord is affected, motor disorders may occur (going as far as paraplegia or tetraplegia);
  • Turnkey digestive disorders may appear in the case of a recent fracture;
  • If the dorsal vertebrae are affected, respiratory disorders can occur,
  • Loss of sphincter control in the event that the spinal cord or the nerve endings of the caudal end are affected;

Consolidation and healing time

The healing time for a vertebral fracture usually depends on the affected vertebra and its severity. For example, a stable fracture heals and consolidates faster than an unstable fracture.

x-ray of a fractured vertebra

Le consolidation time begins after 2 to 3 weeks and takes several months to fully consolidate. This varies according to several parameters such as age, state of health and the extent of the injury.

Favorable prognostic factors are generally the following:

  • absence of nerve damage
  • young patient
  • in good health, with fairly strong trunk musculature
  • absence of systemic disease
  • food and adequate hydration during the healing process
  • favorable psychological state
  • etc.

It is estimated that the healing time of an unstable fracture of the vertebra can take up to 6 months or even longer. Other unfavorable prognostic factors are:

Unfortunately, often, despite a good healing process, the pain and reduced mobility can persist in some cases. This is also the reason why it is essential to follow the recommendations from treating professionals in order to resume their daily activities in an optimal way.

Treatment and rehabilitation

The treatment of the vertebra fracture has a double objective: to treat the pain and to improve the quality of life but also to treat the cause, if this one is not traumatic. Some of the treatment options that exist to cure the fracture of the vertebra include:

corset after lumbar arthrodesis
  • Analgesic drugs: they aim to relieve pain;
  • Conservative treatment: rest is recommended (bed rest) at the beginning, as well as the wearing of a corset or lumbar belt.
  • Physiotherapy and rehabilitation: teaches the patient how to perform daily movements and strengthen the muscles, once the fracture has healed.
  • surgery: it is generally applied during unstable fractures of the vertebra and consists of the use of screws and rods at the level of the spine in order to stabilize and connect the vertebrae around the fractured one.

Other treatment solutions exist and are used depending on the severity of the fracture: vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty by balloons, etc.

Once the fracture has healed, some people still complain of persistent pain. These can be treated by a practitioner (such as a physiotherapist or osteopath) through manual therapy techniques.

In addition to these physical therapies, some people use anti-back pain products and accessories. Although they are not supported by solid scientific evidence, they offer temporary and effective relief in the majority of cases. Just remember to use them sparingly, and in addition to a proactive approach to physical activity.

Among the recommended products we offer:

Ideally, seek professional advice before using the above accessories.

What about natural remedies?

Although they are not supported by solid scientific evidence, several natural products and grandmother's remedies are used to accelerate healing following a vertebral fracture, in particular for their anti-inflammatory power.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of plants and essential oils that are effective in controlling pain and inflammation. The products are available on the site Country. Use promo code LOMBAFIT15 if you wish to obtain one of the following products, or any remedy aimed at relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life:

  • Turmeric. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers very powerful, turmeric is one of the most used plants in a culinary and therapeutic context. The composition of turmeric is essentially made of essential oils, vitamins (B1, B2, B6, C, E, K) and trace elements. But it is to its composition rich in curcumin and curcuminoids that we owe them and calm skin of this spice.
  • Ginger. In addition to the special flavor it brings to the kitchen and its aphrodisiac properties, ginger is a root well known for its anti-inflammatory powers. the gingerol gives it its anti-inflammatory action. It is an active component acting on the inflammatory pain related to chronic joint inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rheumatic diseases, etc. It has been proven that this active element is also effective in acting on the inflammation linked to arthritis and sciatica. Ginger also has other benefits thanks to its high potassium content and its richness in trace elements (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium) and vitamins (provitamin and vitamin B9).
  • Omega-3s. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a very important role in the functioning of our body. They are provided by food in three natural forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Beyond their action on the brain and the cardiovascular system, omega-3s prove very effective against inflammation. Indeed, they have the ability to act on the inflammatory mechanisms in osteoarthritis by slowing down cartilage destruction, thus they reduce the intensity of osteoarthritis pain. Sciatica, being most often linked to an inflammation secondary to a herniated disc, it can also respond to omega-3 provided it is consumed regularly. 
  • Lemon eucalyptusEucalyptus is a plant most often used in the form of herbal tea or essential oil. She would have anti-inflammatory effects which give it the ability to act on the bone and joint pain in general and the pain of sciatica in particular.
  • wintergreen. Wintergreen is a shrub from which a very interesting essential oil is extracted. It is one of the most used essential oils in aromatherapy. This oil extracted from the shrub bearing the same name, is used in massage to relieve sciatica and act like a analgesic. Indeed, it provides a heating effect thanks to its ability toactivate blood circulation locally.

Return to sport

In the case of vertebral fracture, it is important not to resume sport once the fracture has healed and the muscles have been strengthened. Otherwise, the risk of new fractures is high. It is estimated that the consolidation time is 3 months, if the fracture is severe and unstable, it is estimated at 6 months. It is therefore advisable to resume sport, after a vertebral fracture, only once the green light from the surgeon has been acquired.

positive attitude and back pain

It is also important to gradually take the time to strengthen your muscle mass, especially in the lower limbs. All this must be under the control of a re-educator or a physiotherapist.

Work stopping

A vertebral fracture is a fracture that requires immobilization, the duration of which varies depending on its severity and extent. Thus, all sports and professional activities risk being stopped for a long period, the time of consolidation and healing.

return to work following a hip prosthesis

Your doctor or attending professional will prescribe a work stoppage depending on your condition, and will decide on the terms of recovery based on your progress.

Good recovery !

Are you looking for solutions to relieve your pain?

Discover the opinion of our team of health professionals on various products available on the market (posture, sleep, physical pain), as well as our recommendations.

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