What is a fractured vertebra in the lower back?
A fractured vertebra occurs when one of the bones (vertebra) in the lumbar spine is broken. Physiotherapy is an important treatment of fractured vertebrae in the lower back.
What can cause a fractured vertebra in the lower back?
The spine is made up of thirty-three bones or vertebrae which sit on top of each other like building blocks to support the back. The lumbar spine (lower back) consists of five vertebrae and these are the strongest least mobile of all of the vertebrae. Fractured vertebrae in the lower back are most commonly caused by road traffic accidents or a fall from a great height. It is also possible to obtain a fractured vertebra if you have spondylosis, which is osteoarthritis of the spine.
What are the symptoms of a fractured vertebra in the lower back?
Symptoms of a fractured vertebra include intense pain around the area of the fracture. They may be swelling and spasm due to the muscle around the vertebrae trying to protect the area. If the fracture was caused by a traumatic injury, there is likely to be broken skin, bleeding and other structures involved including blood vessels and surrounding nerves. Nearby nerves can get pinched by the rough bony edges of the fractured vertebra which may cause pins and needles and numbness in the buttocks, legs and feet. Other symptoms include:
What should I do if I have a fractured vertebra in the lower back?
If you think you may have fractured one of your vertebrae, you should visit your nearest accident and emergency department as soon as possible. Here, you will be able to get an accurate diagnosis of your injury and will have an X-ray to confirm this. You may also have to have other tests such as MRI scans, if your accident was more serious. You may find that applying ice wrapped in a wet towel to the area helps to reduce the pain and swelling slightly.
What shouldn’t I do if I have a fractured vertebra in the lower back?
Do not ignore your symptoms or try and treat the injury yourself. It is important that you receive a professional opinion as they will decide the best treatment plan for you. Avoid any activities that will increase the blood flow to the area such as massage, hot packs and hot baths or showers. Drinking alcohol also has this effect.
Physiotherapy for a fractured vertebra in the lower back.
As soon as you receive a professional diagnosis of your injury, you will be able to begin a physiotherapy programme. Even if you are advised not to carry out strenuous activities, it is important to keep other joints mobile and strong to help optimise your recovery and prevent long term complications. Physiotherapy will include a variety of strengthening and range of movement exercises on different joints that will be tailored to your ability. Core strengthening is also very important as these are the deep muscles that help to support your lower back. Other physiotherapy treatment includes:
Can a fractured vertebra in the lower back have any long-term effects?
If you do not receive immediate treatment, your recovery may be delayed with the risk of other complications include stiff joints and weakness. Physiotherapy can also help with these more chronic problems.
To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.