Spinal injuries and fractures

Spinal Conditions

Spinal injuries and fractures

Spinal injuries and fractures will need immediate medical attention. Complications can threaten both livelihood and life.


What are spinal injuries?

Spinal injuries affect the spine’s vertebrae, ligaments, muscles, discs, or the spinal cord. These can range in severity from minor to causing lifelong disability.

Spinal fractures, in particular, are defined as a fracture or a break in the vertebrae. Spinal fractures are serious injuries that should always be assessed by a spinal surgeon for prompt treatment.

What causes spinal injuries and fractures?

Spinal injuries and fractures most commonly result from an external force that unnaturally moves the spine, such as by compressing or twisting it sharply. This trauma most commonly results from car crashes, diving incidents, or falls in older people.

In older adults, arthritis and osteoporosis may contribute to spinal fractures. These conditions lead to weakened bones, decreased range of motion, and higher fall risk, potentially increasing the risk of an accident and severe damage to the spine.


Symptoms of a spinal injury
or fracture

People suffering from a spinal injury or spinal fracture may experience the following:

  • Pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
  • Deformity of the spine
  • Muscular weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of sensation below the site of injury
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

How is a spinal injury diagnosed?

Spinal injuries and fractures are often complex injuries that can have long-term complications if not adequately treated. As a result, Dr Alvin Pun or another doctor will generally use more than one of the following tests to identify a spinal injury, its extent, and a suitable treatment plan.


Particularly for spinal fractures, may be used to identify bone fragments and plan for surgery.


These may be needed to identify injury to the spine’s discs, ligaments, nerves, and other structures which do not show clearly on an X-ray.

How are spinal injuries treated?

Treatment for a spinal fracture or other injury focuses on minimising pain, preventing the damage from worsening and repairing the physical structures wherever possible.

Unfortunately, damage to the spinal cord cannot be repaired, so treatment for a spinal cord injury may instead lend more focus to reducing pain and improving ongoing quality of life. As with spinal fractures, this commonly involves spinal surgery.

Less significant injuries may not require surgery, and conservative measures may be enough to allow healing. Conservative treatments may also be used with surgery to improve patient outcomes. Common treatments and therapies include:

  • Bracing – a soft neck collar, solid brace, or another form of external support may be used to stabilise a site of injury and support it while it heals.
  • Physical therapy – a physiotherapist may recommend exercises to strengthen your muscles and promote the return to movement as you heal. They may also help you learn how to complete activities that place less stress on the spine, reducing pain and chances of re-aggravating your injury in the long term.
  • Cold therapy – applying a cold pack to the injury site or a cold therapy system may help reduce pain and swelling during recovery.
  • Counselling – for many people, a spinal injury is a life-changing event that can significantly impact their everyday activities and independence. Speaking to a mental health professional or other advisors can ease the transition into new activity levels.

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