The bones of spinal column are called vertebrae. Each vertebra has 2 wing-like protrusions, called a transverse process, that extend toward the sides. These protrusions provide an area for muscles and ligaments to attach to provide movement and flexibility in the back. Transverse process fractures can occur anywhere along the spinal column. They are more common in the back than the neck.
A transverse process fracture is a break or crack in 1 or more of these protrusions.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history as well as any accident or activity associated with the pain. . The injured area will be examined. A complete neurological exam will be done to look for damage to the nerves.
Imaging tests may be done to look for signs of damage to the bones and effects on the spinal cord. Tests may include:
Immediate care is important. Proper treatment can prevent long-term problems. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is.
Some fractures cause pieces of bones to separate. These pieces will need to be put back into their proper place. This may be done:
Without surgery—Minor injuries can be treated with a back brace to keep the spinal column in line while it heals.
Surgery—Screws, rods, wires, or cages are used to reconnect bone pieces and hold them in place. Surgery may also be needed to repair vertebrae, relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, or remove any damaged discs.
Rest and Recovery
It may take up to 6 weeks for a transverse spinal fracture to heal. Healing time varies by age and overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster.
Activities will need to be adjusted while the spine heals, but complete rest is rarely required and can actually slow recovery.
Physical therapy or rehabilitation will be used to improve range-of-motion and strengthening the spine. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor says it is okay to do so.
Fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated September 2015. Accessed August 30, 2017.
Krueger MA, Green DA, et al. Overlooked spine injuries associated with lumbar transverse process fractures. Clin Orthop Related Res. 1996;327:191-195.
Seo MR, Park SY, et al. Spinous process fractures in osteoporotic thoracolumbar vertebral fractures. Br J Radiol. 2011;84(1007):1046-1049.