Common Spine Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Common Spine Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Here are some spine injuries that we frequently see at Spine Surgery of Idaho:

Vertebral Compression Fractures

The bones that connect to form the spine are called vertebrae. Osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disorder that primarily affects post-menopausal women, is a leading cause of fractured vertebrae in those over the age of 45. As the condition progresses and the bones get more brittle, they become more susceptible to fracture. Often, sudden acute back pain is the first sign of a fractured vertebrae and is often followed by additional symptoms, such as:

  • Standing or walking exacerbates the pain
  • Lying on one’s back will decrease the pain
  • Stiffened spine
  • Height loss
  • Physical deformity
  • Inability to perform daily activities

Herniated Disc

The spine is made up of vertebrae that are separated by cushions called discs, which provide flexible padding between the bones and allow the spine to bend. These discs have a tough exterior and a softer core, and when some of the softer core protrudes out of the disk, it is called a herniated or ruptured disc.

A herniated disc can cause mild to severe pain by putting pressure on the nerves as they branch out from the spinal cord. Sometimes no symptoms are present, allowing the herniated disc to go undetected. If you do experience symptoms, they’ll likely include the following:

  • Pain – Depending on where the herniated disc is located, you’ll likely feel some pain. If it’s in the upper back or neck, the pain will be present in your shoulder and can shoot into your arm. A herniated disc in the lower back tends to send pain down the buttocks, thigh and calf.
  • Numbness or tingling – Generally present in the area where the herniated disc is located, or along the course of the nerve.
  • Weakness – When a herniated disc affects your nerves, the muscles they serve can weaken, leading to stumbling or dropping objects.


When one vertebra slides forward out of place, it’s called spondylolisthesis. This condition can be caused by an accident, sports injury, birth defect or as a result of the wear and tear of aging. If you have spondylolisthesis, some symptoms you’ll typically encounter include:

  • Back or buttock pain
  • Pain shooting down the leg
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain exacerbated by twisting or bending over
  • Less commonly, loss of bladder or bowel control

However, like a herniated disc, spondylolisthesis can sometimes be present without symptoms.

Causes and Prevention

Generally speaking, most spine injuries tend to result from an impact or trauma. Some of the most common causes of spine injuries include:

  • Car crashes
  • Falls
  • Assaults
  • Sports Injuries

Take proper precautions during physical activity and (for those over 50) limit your bending, twisting and lifting Using proper form when exercising or lifting heavy objects is also necessary to preserve spine health. If you do suffer from one of these injuries, or have other pain in your back or neck, it’s important to visit a spine specialist to check the health of your neck or back.

If you want more information on common spine injuries, or would like to make an appointment, call us at (208) 944-0056.