Vertebral Body Fracture

By | June 10, 2022

Vertebral fracture, also known as a vertebral fracture, refers to damage to the plate-shaped portion of the vertebra. This part of the vertebra located inside the body can be injured by illness or by trauma, such as an accident. The vertebral body fracture is painful and depending on the type or severity, injuries to the spinal cord, ligaments and tendons are possible.

What is a vertebral fracture?

A vertebral body fracture affects only the disc-shaped vertebral body, which is also the contact surface of the intervertebral discs. The vertebral body fracture itself is divided into different types that describe the nature of the fracture. For definitions of cmp, please visit

The classification into A-type, B-type and C-type fractures also indicates the type of force that triggered the vertebral body fracture. A distinction is made between compression fractures, which are caused by compression of the vertebrae and are referred to as A fractures.

Distraction fractures involve forward or backward hyperextension, while rotational fractures result from twisting of the spine. These C-type rotational fractures are among the most severe forms of vertebral body fractures, since fractures of the rest of the vertebra often also occur with this cause.


In many cases, vertebral body fractures are the result of a sports injury or an accident. The excessive load and force on the spine exposes the vertebral body to forces that lead to a vertebral fracture.

In these cases, the intervertebral discs are not sufficient to protect the bony vertebral bodies and to cushion the pressure suddenly acting on the structure at different points. In addition to vertebral body fractures in healthy patients, vertebral body fractures due to illness are also possible. Older people who also suffer from a disease that weakens the bone structure are particularly often affected.

In the case of existing osteoporosis, a vertebral body fracture can occur without any noticeable force being applied to the bone. Some types of cancer also attack bone stability and lead to a fracture of the vertebral body even with normal movement.

Typical Symptoms & Signs

  • back pain
  • Movement restrictions in the area of ​​the cervical spine
  • Forced posture or misalignment of the head
  • bruises
  • emotional disturbances
  • paralysis
  • muscle weakness

Diagnosis & History

The vertebral body fracture is manifested by severe pain in the back. After an accident, this is always an indicator to consult a doctor for a closer examination. Patients with a known bone disease should also clarify the cause with their doctor if they experience new back pain. This will examine the spine for damage in the imaging process and usually determine the vertebral body fracture on the X-ray image.

Even a vertebral fracture that is initially only painful can cause sensory disturbances, paralysis of the extremities and permanent pain. Incontinence and intestinal paralysis are also possible symptoms and consequences of the vertebral body fracture. If the vertebral body fracture heals, a narrowing of the spinal canal due to changes in the surface along the fracture points is realistic as a late consequence.


The complications associated with a vertebral fracture sometimes depend on the type and complexity of the fracture and whether or not treatment has been given. If recognized and treated in good time, most vertebral body fractures can heal without major consequential damage, although possible causes must be considered.

The most serious complication in this context is paraplegia, which can be caused by pinching and injuring the spinal cord. This occurs primarily in the case of severely displaced fragments of the vertebral bodies or when individual vertebral bodies collapse (usually in connection with osteoporosis). However, partial paralysis can also occur, depending on the height of the broken vertebra.

For example, the arms, legs or the bowel and bladder emptying can be affected. Spinal cord damage can also lead to breathing problems and neurological disorders. This includes loss of conscious perception, sensory disturbances and the inability to use one’s own body parts purposefully.

If a vertebral body is fractured in such a way that its structure is permanently damaged, the back can be misaligned (humpback formation), a reduction in body size and chronic pain can occur. Depending on the location and fracture, the surgical procedures for the treatment of a vertebral body fracture can lead to a risk of complications, which are mainly related to possible injuries to the spinal cord.

When should you go to the doctor?

If back pain occurs after vigorous physical activity, an accident, a fall or the effects of violence, there is often a need for action. For the time being, the person concerned should check whether the symptoms subside after sufficient rest and rest. If there are no symptoms after a few hours or a restful night’s sleep, in most cases a doctor is not required.

However, if the health irregularities persist or increase in scope and intensity, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Pain in the back, restricted mobility or disturbances in the general movement sequences must be examined and treated. If the person affected suffers from paralysis, there is an acute need for action.

In particularly serious cases, an ambulance should be contacted. To avoid consequential damage, the instructions of the rescue team must be followed. A doctor is required in the event of a sudden decrease in physical performance, the appearance of skin changes or the development of bruises.

These are signs of a health disorder that must be clarified and, if necessary, treated. If the person concerned adopts a relieving posture due to the symptoms, a doctor should be consulted. There is a risk of long-term damage and in some cases action must be taken as quickly as possible so that the irregularities can be alleviated in the long term. Some diseases can otherwise lead to lifelong impairments.

Treatment & Therapy

Vertebral body fractures are treated conservatively or surgically, depending on the type and severity. In the event of an accidental fracture, stabilization is important until a more precise diagnosis can be made in order to prevent further damage to the vertebrae and spinal cord.

If the examination shows that the fracture can be treated with further stabilization, the patient must go through the healing phase with good pain therapy in relative calm, but not in a motionless state. Triggering diseases such as osteoporosis are also treated in a combination therapy in order to effectively combat the causes. Vertebral body fractures in the area of ​​the thoracic spine are sufficiently supported by the rib cage itself and additional supports can usually be dispensed with.

Surgical intervention is only necessary if there is a risk that the spinal cord will be damaged or even more impaired by the vertebral fracture. The aim of the surgeon is to stabilize the vertebral body fracture again with different means such as plates, screws or the body’s own bone material. The pressure is removed from the spinal cord during the correction of the vertebral body fracture and the resulting change in position of the spine is corrected as completely as possible.


A vertebral body fracture can at least be avoided if value is placed on good equipment and correctly learned movements in sports that are prone to accidents. Disease-related vertebral body fractures, on the other hand, can be avoided if the underlying disease is treated carefully and at an early stage. In this way, the impairment of the bone structure can be stopped or at least slowed down and a vertebral body fracture can be averted.


If the vertebral body fracture occurs as part of osteoporosis, alleviating the underlying disease during aftercare is of great importance. Calcium metabolism can be influenced and bone density improved by administering special medication. Physiotherapy can help to relieve pain and specifically build and strengthen the back muscles: This relieves the spine and minimizes the risk of a new fracture.

In the case of vertebral body fractures after accidents that require surgical treatment, rehabilitation should follow immediately after the operation. Light physiotherapeutic exercises can often be started just one day after the procedure. With the help of targeted movements, the spine should be mobilized and normal mobility restored.

Whether this can be fully achieved depends on whether and to what extent neurological deficits are present. For people of working age, getting back to work is the top priority: jobs with low to medium physical strain can usually be practiced again after a rehabilitation phase of two to three months.

For patients with a physically demanding job, retraining for a less physically demanding job often turns out to be sensible. In the case of vertebral body fractures that result in symptoms of paralysis, the focus is on largely establishing independence through physiotherapy and useful aids.

You can do that yourself

In the case of disorders of the skeletal system, the general movement sequences in everyday life must be checked and optimized at regular intervals. One-sided or rigid postures can lead to an increase in complaints. Therefore, they should be avoided if possible or compensatory movements should be carried out. When lifting and carrying objects, make sure that they are only light. All physical movements should be done slowly and with increased awareness in the recovery process. Jerky movements, jumping or running interfere with healing and can lead to complications. Therefore, sporting activities or the execution of professional activities should be avoided.

In everyday life, it is advisable to seek help and support from relatives or people from the immediate social environment when fulfilling daily duties. Physiotherapeutic training units can also be carried out independently outside of therapy. These help to cope with everyday life and at the same time promote the healing process. Drafts have an unfavorable influence on a vertebral body fracture. Therefore, the affected area should be adequately protected. Heat supply alleviates possible existing complaints.

You should also check the dead weight. If you are overweight, disorders can occur and an increase in symptoms is possible. Therefore, a change in diet and weight reduction may be necessary to achieve long-term recovery.

Vertebral Body Fracture