Neck + Back

Fractures

Overview

Fractures can vary greatly from a stress fracture to broken bones. Symptoms of a fracture include:

  • Pain with weight bearing
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Deformed or crooked appearance

If your child has a potential fracture, they should be examined by a doctor as quickly as possible. A child's bones heal quickly, and it is important that the bone receives the proper treatment before it begins to heal.

Cervical Fracture (Broken Neck)

Cervical fractures are breaks in any one or more of the seven bones in the neck, usually resulting from high-energy trauma such as automobile crashes or falls. Athletes are also at risk. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down. Treatment will depend on which of the seven cervical vertebrae are damaged and the kind of fracture sustained. A minor compression fracture can be treated with a cervical brace worn for 6 to 8 weeks until the bone heals. A more complex or extensive fracture may require traction, surgery, 2 to 3 months in a rigid cast, or a combination of these treatments.

Learn more about cervical fractures.

Clavicle Fracture (Broken Collarbone)

A clavicle fracture is a break in the collarbone, one of the main bones in the shoulder. Most clavicle fractures occur when a fall onto the shoulder or an outstretched arm puts enough pressure on the bone that it snaps or breaks. A broken collarbone can be very painful and can make it hard to move your arm. Most clavicle fractures can be treated by wearing a sling to keep the arm and shoulder from moving while the bone heals. With some clavicle fractures, however, the pieces of bone move far out of place when the injury occurs. For these more complicated fractures, surgery may be needed to realign the collarbone.

Learn more about clavicle fractures.

Thoracic and Lumbar Spine Fracture

Most spinal fractures occur in the midback and lower back or at the connection of the two (thoracolumbar junction). Most spinal fractures are caused by high-energy trauma such as a car crash, fall from height, or other violent act. Many times, these patients have additional serious injuries that require rapid treatment. The spinal cord may also be injured, depending on the severity of the fracture. Spinal fractures may also be caused by bone insufficiency. For example, people with osteoporosis, tumors, or other underlying conditions that weaken the bone can fracture a vertebra even during low-impact activities--such as reaching or twisting. These fractures may develop unnoticed over a period of time, with no symptoms or discomfort until a bone breaks.

Learn more about thoratic and lumbar fractures.

Vertebral Compression Fracture

Osteoporosis is a natural aging phenomenon; as we get older, our bones weaken and are more likely to break. It often develops unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort until a bone breaks. Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine (vertebral compression fractures). These fractures are often the result of a fall, but people with osteoporosis can suffer a fracture even when doing everyday things, such as reaching, twisting, coughing, and sneezing. Not all vertebral compression fractures are due to osteoporosis. But when the disease is involved, a fracture is often a patient's first sign of a weakened skeleton from osteoporosis. Fortunately, most people who suffer a vertebral compression fracture get better within three months without specific treatment to repair the fracture.

Learn more about osteoporosis and spinal fractures.

Diagnosis

X-rays are commonly used to determine fractures. Sometimes, the stress fracture cannot be seen on regular x-rays or will not show up for several weeks after the pain starts. Occasionally, a computed topography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be necessary.

Treatment Options

Treatment of fractures vary greatly depending on the force that causes the break as well as where the break is located. Doctors classify fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine based upon the specific pattern of the fracture and whether there is a spinal cord injury.

Many types fractures can be treated with bracing, casting, or splinting. Surgery is not uncommon with spinal fractures, especially if they were caused by a high-energy event. Surgery may also be needed for fractures that have not healed properly with nonsurgical treatment. Your doctor will talk with you about the best treatment option for you and your injury.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength or restore range of motion.

Patient Forms, Instructions, and Protocols

Spine Assessment

Dr. Mark McCarthy

Clavicle ORIF Post-Op Instructions

Eau Claire Area Locations

Chippewa Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Chippewa Falls

Wisconsin Brain & Spine Center - Altoona

Chippewa Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Altoona

Request an appointment

Outreach Locations

Cumberland Memorial Hospital

Greenfield Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine - Spooner

Interventional Pain Specialists of Wisconsin

Krohn Clinic

Black River Memorial Hospital

Diagnostic Radiology Associates

Optimum Therapies - Barron

Ascension Our Lady of Victory Hospital