How to Treat a Broken Back

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Treat a Broken Back
Treat a Broken Back

How to Treat a Broken Back. Treatment for a broken back may vary greatly according to the degree of the injury and whether the spinal cord is affected. While a broken back, which involves a fracture to one or more vertebrae, almost always requires surgery, the methods of treatment and the length of your recovery will depend upon many factors.

Things You'll Need

  • Physician and orthopedic surgeon
  • Back brace or traction cast
  • MRI or CAT Scan

Treat a Broken Back

Do not try to move yourself if you suspect you have broken your back, unless your life is in immediate danger (such as being trapped in a fire). Any movement can aggravate the injury and increase the chances of injury to the spinal cord. Call 911 and wait for emergency medical assistance.

Have the doctor evaluate the degree of your injury by using either an MRI (magnetic resonance image) or a CAT scan. This will determine your course of treatment and the type of surgery you will need.

Determine which type of surgery will be used to treat your broken back. Usually, a fractured vertebrae will simply be fused to the one next to it, or it will be removed completely and replaced with a bone graft. Care must be taken to remove any bone chips or fragments that could cause damage to the spinal cord over time.

Immobilize your back after surgery to allow for recovery. This may be achieved through the use of a traction body cast in more severe fractures, or a back brace. Recovery from back surgery is usually slow, so be patient with your progress.

Use physical therapy to strengthen and stretch your back muscles once you are no longer using a brace or body cast. Building up the muscles around your vertebrae can help to protect them from further injury down the road. It is easy to re-injure yourself after back surgery, so take it easy and listen to your doctor during the recovery process.

Check out websites such as eMedicinehealth and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, among others, for more tips on how to treat a broken back (see Resources below).

Tips & Warnings

  • The main objective when you treat a broken back is to avoid injury to the spinal cord, which can cause permanent paralysis. Avoid unnecessary movement when injured, and don't overdo it when it comes time to recover.

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