Car accidents cause 45 percent of all spinal fractures. These can be extremely painful and debilitating. Different kinds of spinal fractures cause different degrees of disability, ranging from compression fractures to more serious burst fractures and fracture-dislocations that are common in serious car accidents.
Spinal fractures may be described as major and minor, and stable and unstable. A major fracture includes the vertebral body, the pedicles, or the lamina. This type of fracture is serious because it may include damage to the nerves and misalignment of the vertebrae, which affect the spine’s ability to support your weight and distribute energy as your body moves. A minor fracture involves the back side of the vertebra—the spinous process and facet joints—an area that has less effect on the spine’s stability.
Stable fractures don’t involve the nerves and don’t deform the spine. The spine’s weight-bearing function remains mostly intact. Unstable fractures, on the other hand, make it difficult for the spine to support and distribute weight. These tend to get worse over time, involving nerves and spinal deformity.
Types of Spinal Fractures
Symptoms of Spinal Fractures
Some stable spinal fractures don’t cause pain, so whenever you’ve been in a car accident you should get a thorough examination by a doctor. If the fracture is more severe and involves nerves or the spinal cord, it may produce the following symptoms:
- Pain that shoots down arms or legs
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in arms or legs
- Trouble walking or moving
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Long-Term Consequences of Spinal Fractures
If spinal fractures are not treated, the vertebra might heal in a caved-in position, causing a deformity of the spine known as kyphosis, commonly called hunchback or dowager’s hump. Long-term consequences of kyphosis include:
- Pain and fatigue
- Lung problems
- Bone loss
- Problems sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Balance problems and risk falling
- Compression of internal organs
- Loss of height
- 23% increased risk of death
Treatment of Spinal Fractures
Doctors usually begin with the least invasive measures, including rest, anti-inflammatories, and bracing or casting for 6 to 12 weeks. If these aren’t effective, surgery often becomes necessary.
If you have suffered a spinal fracture in a car accident, you may have questions about what to do next. You will benefit from consulting an experienced attorney, but do your homework first. Even before you interview a lawyer to represent you, read Five Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case, a consumer guide by Jim Dodson. It provides information you need to avoid making a mistake right in the beginning that can harm your case.