The twelve vertebrae of the thoracic spine run from the upper chest to the middle back and connect to the rib cage. The lumbar spine, located in the lower back, includes 5 vertebrae that support greater body weight. Fractures to either the thoracic spine or the lumbar spine are actually two of the most common spinal fractures. Another common fracture is a thoracolumbar junction fracture and it occurs where these two segments meet.
A thoracic or lumbar fracture of the spine is a serious condition. West Michigan Spine Center is unrivaled in neck or back pain management for a fracture of the thoracic and lumbar spine. If you have experienced a fracture of the thoracic or lumbar spine, please contact us immediately!
Causes and Symptoms of Thoracic Spine and Lumbar Spine Fractures
A fracture of the thoracic spine or the lumbar spine is typically caused by high-velocity accidents, such as falls, car crashes, sports injuries, and other violent acts. As a result, men are four times more likely than women to suffer a fracture of the lumbar spine or thoracic region. Additionally, seniors are at risk for fractures of the lumbar spine or thoracic region, as their bones are weak and brittle. Other conditions involving weakened bone, such as tumors, can increase risk for fractures. These fractures may also cause lumbar spine pain and spinal cord damage.
Persons experiencing a fracture of the thoracic spine or the lumbar spine typically present with moderate to severe upper back and neck pain, worsened with movement. Spinal cord-related injuries may cause numbness, tingling, weakness, bowel/bladder dysfunction, brain injuries, black-outs, and lost consciousness. A fracture of the lumbar spine or thoracic spine can also result in distracting injuries in which pain from other spine injuries masks lumbar spine pain.
Identifying Fractures of the Lumbar Spine & Thoracic Spine Patterns
Doctors seek to identify the specific fracture patterns when diagnosing a fracture of the thoracic spine or the lumbar region, enabling them to choose the proper course of treatment. There are three types of patterns caused by a fracture of the lumbar spine or thoracic spine:
- Flexion fracture patterns: A compression fracture of the lumbar spine or thoracic region occurs when only the vertebrae’s anterior (front) breaks and loses height. When both the front and back sides lose height, an axial burst fracture of the thoracic spine or the lumbar region develops. Such fractures often result after landing on your feet from a fall.
- Extension pattern: The pain of a spine fracture of the thoracic spine or the lumbar region from an injury like a head-on collision is caused by vertebrae pulling apart. These are called “flexion/distraction (Chance) fractures.”
- Rotation fracture pattern: A “transverse process fracture,” which usually doesn’t affect stability, is caused by a fracture associated with rotation or extreme sideways (lateral) bending. A “fracture-dislocation,” in which vertebrae are displaced, targets bone and/or soft tissue. These fractures can lead to serious upper back and neck pain and spinal cord injuries.