Spinal Fracture

Spinal fractures are commonly caused by major trauma such as a vehicle or sporting accident, although in our more senior patients they can also be a result of bone weakening from age. Harris & Ross are highly experienced when it comes to patient rehabilitation in this area. Find out more about this issue and how we go about treating it below-


Predominantly fractures of the spine occur in the lower and mid-back (Lumbar and Thoracic Spine). The severity of injury with spinal fractures can vary greatly, and thus the symptoms, management and treatment does also.


What causes it?

Commonly a fracture of the lumbar or thoracic spine will occur as a consequence of high speed trauma, including:

  • Motorbike or car accident
  • Sporting Accident. It’s a risk in motorsports such as MotorCross, and is rare but has been known to occur in freak rugby accidents
  • Falling from a height
  • As we get older our bones weaken, as they do this they are more at risk of fracture. This can even be the result of everyday things such as reaching, twisting or coughing

Fractures particularly of the Thoracic spine can occur as a result of Osteoperosis – this is not an acute injury but a gradual weakening and thinning of the bones.


Signs and symptoms

  • Moderate to severe pain in the neck and back
  • Spinal cord injury following an unstable fracture may be associated with dysfunction of bowel/bladder, numbness, tingling, pins and needles, muscle weakness


Different Types of Spinal Fracture

Extension pattern – where the vertebrae is pulled apart, commonly caused by a head on collision

Flexion pattern – where only the front of the vertebra breaks and loses height, such as with a wedge fracture – for example people landing from a height, or those with osteoperosis

Axial Burst fracture – occurs where the front and back of the vertebra lose height – common from landing on both feet from a significant fall


Rotation Fracture Pattern:

Transverse Process Fracture – these are often stable and related to rotation or excessive side bending of the spine

Fracture Dislocation – in which vertebrae are displaced. This can damage bone, soft tissue and may result in a spinal cord injury.



Spinal fractures are treated in different ways in the first instance, depending on the type of fracture. These treatment options include:

  • Surgical stabilization. For unstable fractures, this often involves the insertion of screws and rods to secure the broken bones
  • Back Brace. This may be used to restrict movement to promote healing in the initial stages following a stable fracture
  • Conservative treatment. Often following transverse process fracture, physiotherapy treatment will be used to progress movement and function as guided by the Spinal Consultant.

Regardless of the type of spinal fracture physiotherapy plays a key role in reducing pain, restoring movement and improving strength. Physios will take guidance regarding the treatment from the spinal consultant managing the patient’s fracture.

At Harris and Ross we see patients with different spinal fractures. A large number of these are extreme sports athletes including those who race MotorCross and Super Bikes, as well as Big Wave Surfers.

Physiotherapy uses a variety of techniques to rehabilitate these injuries, including:

  • Gentle work initially focusing on core and trunk control
  • Soft tissue massage for muscle spasm and areas of increased tension
  • Spinal mobilisations to maintain mobility in un-injured spinal levels
  • Low level core stability and gluteal work
  • Graded increase in core, gluteal and upper body work
  • Stretches
  • Progression to gym based rehab
  • Progressing to axial loading (for example weighted squats) and rotational strengthening
  • Plyometric exercise both in hydrotherapy pool and then land based
  • Sport specific exercises

Following such a serious injury it is important that strength testing and functional testing are used to help guide decisions with regards returning to sport.

To make an appointment for an initial physio assessment at our Wilmslow, Manchester, Altrincham or Wigan clinics, and discuss a treatment plan regarding spinal fracture rehabilitation call Harris & Ross on 0161 832 9000 or click the book now icon below.