Lumbar and thoracic spine fractures refer to a type of injury that occurs in the bones in the middle and lower part of your back.
Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, with the first 12 being part of the thoracic spine and the remaining 5 part of the lumbar spine.
Fractures can occur in any of these vertebrae and they can range from mild compression fractures to severe fractures that cause spinal cord injury.
A lumbar and thoracic spine fracture can be classified as such:
Lumbar spine fracture: fracture or broken vertebrae in your lower back.
Thoracic spine fracture: fracture or broken vertebrae in your upper back, from the bottom of your neck to the bottom of your ribcage.
What causes lumbar and thoracic spine fractures?
Lumbar and thoracic spine fractures can be caused by a variety of factors such as:
Trauma: injury from falls, car accidents, sports, and other high-impact trauma can cause fractures of the lumbar and thoracic spine.
Medical conditions: certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis, cancer, or infections can cause fractures in the spine.
What are the symptoms of lumbar and thoracic spine fractures?
Symptoms of lumbar and thoracic spine fractures include:
Severe back pain that worsens with movement
Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs or arms
Loss of bladder or bowel control (severe cases)
Tenderness, swelling, or bruising around the affected area
Trouble standing or sitting upright
Visible deformity or protrusion of the spine (severe cases)
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.
Lumbar and thoracic spine fractures can be painful. The severity of the pain depends on the type and extent of the fracture.
Common symptoms include sudden, severe back pain, difficulty moving or standing, numbness or tingling, and muscle weakness.
The pain may be localised to the affected area but it may spread to other parts of your body. In more severe cases, you may also experience bladder or bowel dysfunction.
Who is at risk of lumbar and thoracic spine fractures in Singapore?
Anyone is at risk of lumbar and thoracic spine fractures, however, there are several factors that increase your risk, these are:
Sports: individuals who participate or engage in high-impact sports (football or rugby) have an increased risk of lumbar and thoracic spine fractures.
Gender: females are more prone to lumbar and thoracic spine fractures than males.
Age: as we age, we start to lose bone mass. This makes our bones weak and prone to fractures.
Medical conditions: individuals with certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis, spinal tumours, or other underlying medical conditions affecting bone strength may be more susceptible to lumbar and thoracic spine fractures.
How are lumbar and thoracic spine fractures diagnosed?
Lumbar and thoracic spine fractures are diagnosed in the following ways:
Physical examination: your orthopaedist will perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms and medical history.
Imaging tests: x-rays, computed tomography scans (CT-scan), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be performed to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the fracture(s).