What is a compression fracture?

Your vertebrae are the bones of your back. They stack on top of one another to protect your spinal cord, yet they are vulnerable to injury and fracture just as the other bones of your body are. A compression fracture is a very specific type of injury that causes your vertebrae to collapse.

According to Cedars-Sinai, a traumatic injury to your back can result in a compression fracture. For example, if you were to fall at work and land on your back, or if you became crushed by a heavy piece of equipment, a compression fracture could result.

If you sustain a compression fracture as a result of a traumatic injury, you will likely experience the immediate onset of severe, debilitating back pain that limits your range of motion. When one or more vertebrae collapse due to a compression fracture, pieces of bone can splinter and put pressure on the nerves and the spinal cord. This can result in nerve damage that could cause loss of bowel or bladder control, difficulty walking, sensations of numbness and tingling and weakness of your muscles.

The nerves, muscles and limbs affected depend on the level of the spine at which the compression fracture occurs. If it involves the vertebrae of your neck, you could experience symptoms in your arms, but if it is at a lower level, it is likely to only affect your legs.

Your doctor will likely perform some sort of imaging study, such as X-ray, MRI and/or CT, to take pictures of your spine. This allows him or her to see if a compression fracture has occurred and if so, at what level.

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment ranges from wearing a back brace to a type of surgery called vertebroplasty, where a specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected into the collapsed vertebra. Regardless of the treatment that is required, your mobility – and your ability to perform your job – will be severely limited for a substantial amount of time.

Whenever you are injured at work, it is important to notify your employer right away and file a written incident report with the employer within 30 days of the injury. In North Carolina, an injured worker has two years from the date of the injury by accident to file a claim for benefits with the NC Industrial Commission. And, of course, we can help. That is what we do.

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