A spinal compression fracture often forms the basis of a workers compensation injury. This post will discuss compression fractures generally and how they related to on the job injuries as well. In the general population, most compression fractures are related to osteoporosis. Spine bones that are weakened from osteoporosis may become unable to support normal stress and pressure. As a result, something as simple as coughing, twisting, or lifting can cause a vertebra to fracture. On the job, an injury to the spine, such as from a hard fall on the buttocks or blow to the head, can cause a spinal compression fracture. We have seen compression fractures as a result of ladder falls, falls from scaffolding and hitting the windshield in an automobile collision. Compression fractures can occur in the cervical and lumbar spines, but most often we see them in the thoracic spine. Workers compensation benefits for temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, loss of earning capacity, retraining and occasionally permanent total disability can be due as a result of compression fractures. It is very important that the doctor’s office have an accurate and complete history of the accident or incident causing the spinal compression fracture.
The human spine is made of 24 spinal bones, called vertebrae. Vertebrae are stacked on top of one another to create the spinal column. The spinal column gives the body its form. It is the body’s main upright support. The main section of each vertebra is a large, round structure called a vertebral body. Compression fractures cause this section of bone to collapse. A bony ring attaches to the back of each vertebral body. When the vertebrae are stacked on one another, the bony rings form a hollow tube. This tube, or canal, surrounds the spinal cord. The spinal cord is like a long wire made of millions of nerve fibers. Just as the skull protects the brain, the bones of the spinal column protect the spinal cord. Compression fractures should show up on x-rays, but as noted in future posts, MRI and bone scans are also used to accurately identify and diagnose the fractures.
Severe compression fractures from forceful impact on the spine, as can happen in a car crash or an industrial accident, can cause fragments of the vertebral body to push into the spinal canal and press against the spinal cord, which can cause damage to the spinal cord. It is rare for a typical compression fracture from osteoporosis to cause damage to the spinal cord.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers with compression fractures, often in the thoracic vertebrae. We obtain disability benefits and medical bill payments.