What is a traumatic back injury

7th January, 2021 • 2 min read

A traumatic back injury is medically known as an acute thoracolumbar injury. It happens when structures in your back, like your spine’s bones, cord and disc are damaged.

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Traumatic back injuries are often caused by serious (high-energy) accidents, like road traffic accidents or falling from a height, but they can also happen without a specific injury if you have osteoporosis or other conditions that affect your spine.

Symptoms of traumatic back injury

A traumatic back injury can cause symptoms that include back pain, bruising, and muscle weakness and numbness.

This type of injury is a medical emergency that needs immediate medical attention. Call an ambulance immediately if you have, or think you may have, a traumatic back injury.

How is a traumatic back injury diagnosed and treated?

You’ll usually need imaging scans to check if you’ve damaged the structures in your spine and how bad the damage is. This usually involves having an X-ray, but you may also be given a


The exact treatment for a traumatic back injury tends to depend on how bad the injury is and the specific structures in your back that have been damaged. It may include:

  • immediate life-saving treatment if you’ve had a serious accident
  • painkillers
  • braces to hold your spine still
  • surgery
  • bed rest

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.