Fracture of the Spine
The worst back injury is a fracture of the spine. This is usually caused by an accident or a heavy fall.
A stable fracture is when only the endplates break and vertebral body is compressed together without affecting the ligaments. This is typically not a danger for spinal cord or spinal nerves. Frequently this stable type of fracture occurs in elderly patients. This type of fracture can be seen on X-rays. The patient must wear a stabilizing corset, however in rare cases physiotherapy is sufficient.
An unstable vertebral fracture is an injury, where the vertebral body collapses and ligaments or discs are torn in such a way that a normal load can not be carried or that spinal cord and nerves are crushed or torn. The unstable fracture is a very rare condition, where loss of nerve function and even paraplegia occurs, which cannot be reversed with surgery. A severe injury of the spinal cord in the upper cervical spine, “broken neck”, can result in sudden death, where breathing and circulation is affected.