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Spinal fracture causes, types and symptoms

In Colorado and elsewhere, car collisions and other violent traumas can cause a spinal fracture. A fracture of the spine occurs most often in the mid and lower back, but it may fracture at their connection, called the thoracolumbar junction. Extreme energy is usually required to cause these injuries, such as a car collision or a high fall. A weakened vertebra may also fracture due to osteoporosis or other medical conditions.

Fractures of the lower and mid-back are classified into three major patterns. A flexion fracture pattern involves one or both sides of the vertebra losing height. In an extension fracture pattern, the vertebra are actually pulled apart. A head-on collision is often the cause of an extension fracture pattern because the upper body accelerates forward, but the lower body is held in place by the seat belt. A rotation fracture pattern may be a fracture-dislocation that involves soft tissue and/or bone, or a transverse process fracture resulting from extreme sideways bending. A car collision may cause any of these injuries.

Back pain that increases with movement is the main symptom of a spinal fracture. Spinal cord involvement causes numbness, tingling or weakness. Treatment for the injury can be a brace, or surgery may be needed to fit the vertebrae together again.

In the event of a car collision caused by a negligent driver, the injured victim may choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Damages may include pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of wages and vehicle replacement. An attorney who has experience in this type of litigation can provide representation to such an injured client.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "Fractures of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine," February 2010

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