The spine is the supportive pillar of the human body. It transfer the forces and loads of the head and torso to the pelvis and legs which is no easy task. While the thoracic and lumbar spine are designed more for stability and high forces, the cervical spine is fully built for movement. A spinal fracture can therefore have serious consequences.
At Schoen Clinic London the spine is one of our areas of expertise. After careful diagnosis, our specialists can offer you the best-possible treatment to let you quickly move around again, pain-free.
Composition and function of the spine
The spine is more or less at the centre of the body and is covered at the back by strong muscles. The front sections – the vertebrae – are embedded in the soft tissue and organs of the neck as well as in the chest and stomach cavities. Using your vertebrae, the spine keeps your body upright. It bears the weight of the head, upper and lower body and arms. It also protects our spinal cord which runs along the bony spinal canal of the spine.
Symptoms: signs of fracture
- Any pain in the spinal region after a fall or accident. If there is any nerve damage or even paralysis, this may indicate an unstable spinal fracture
- Any nerve damage or even paralysis, this may indicate an unstable spinal fracture
- Pain in the cervical spine and neck at rest and/or during movement
- Misalignment or inclination of the head
- Feeling that the head can no longer support itself
- With osteoporosis, an accident isn’t even necessary for one or more vertebrae to be fractured, which can lead to considerable pain
Causes: how do fractures in the spinal region occur?
Thoracic and lumbar spine injuries: A fall or traffic accident can cause severe ribcage injuries. It can lead to thoracic spine fracture, but lumbar spine fracture in the lower back can also occur. If the bones are already weakened due to osteoporosis, for example, even less severe falls may cause fractures. In extreme cases, the spine can even be fractured spontaneously.
Cervical spine injuries: Adults often injure themselves due to falls, for example, in motorbike or mountain bike accidents. Contact sports such as ice hockey and football also carry a high-risk. You can even severely injure yourself while riding a horse or diving head-first into unchecked waters. Infants and small children may sustain severe injuries to their cervical spine from car collisions or bumping into things head-on.
Even harmless falls may be enough to cause spinal fractures in the elderly. In addition, patients with Bekhterev’s disease have a greater risk of suffering from spinal fractures after falls.
Diagnosis: how we visualise spinal fractures
If we suspect a spinal column injury, we carry out prudent physical examinations and check your nervous system function. We test pain points and establish whether the arms and legs have full motor function and sensitivity. But physical examinations can never fully rule out a cervical spine injury.
Diagnostics for cervical spine injuries
We also carry out diagnostics on these injuries using X-rays, CT and/or MRI.
Diagnostics for thoracic and lumbar spine injuries
We first take X-ray images. If we find any signs of injury in these images, the suspected spinal column section will need to be clarified further through computed tomography (CT). Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we can detect damages to your spinal column early, even if these were not evident in the CT.