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L3 burst fracture
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L3 burst fracture

I was injured in a head-on collision in May of 2010. I am almost at the four month point. Upon injury I was told that I needed surgery. I have a L3 burst fracture without any neurological damage. I have rods and screws placed two vertebrea above and below the injury.  I have been doing lots of research on this and have heard lots of different outcomes.  Days before my surgery I was placed in a back brace which I currently reside in. I am not currently in a great deal of pain, but it can get uncomfortable when I lye flat. My major concern was  if I would be able to return to my normal activity. I am in my early 30s with a 5 yr old and 14 yr old who is very active. I am getting ready to begin PT. I just have several questions, if the hardware can break, or if I would injury myself if I sleep on my side.
This is a very scary situation but I have to thank god that I am alive. I was told that the severity of my injury I was to be paralized or dead. If there is anyone who has experienced this situation or simular I would love to talk with you. Its always good to talk with others to get real life experience.  
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Dear Tiff,
I have not had rods and screws put in my spine, but I did break my back in three places in a car wreck, so I can tell you a little about your situation.  The whole point of putting that hardware in there is to stabilize your spine so it won't fail at the fracture site.  The devices in there are designed to hold the whole works together, it's a permanent arrangement, so it will not break or bend, therefore do not be afraid of that.  Also, it is perfectly okay to sleep on your side, and in fact you can do all sorts of regular things without risk of further injury, as long as you begin to engage in activities slowly and easily at first, until you get your former strength back.

Now, from my own experience of lumbar problems from a car wreck, the way to keep your back from hurting when you lay flat is to bend your knees, which you can just hold them that way when you're on the couch or put a bunch of pillows under your knees when you sleep.  When you lay on your side, if it hurts at anytime, just put a pillow between your knees and/or again bend your knees, and move from more than full side to less than side until it feels the best.  I tend to sleep on my side most of the time because of the same problem you got with laying flat.  But I do have a relatively new mattress, and I put a soft foam pad under the bottom sheet, looks like an egg crate, and therefore when I do lay on my back even without bending my knees, I can stand it for a little while and it feels good despite the little hurt in the lower back.  In time, you will get used to the way your lower back feels, when you sleep and move around, and you will begin to trust how solid the repair actually is.  I have pillows all over the place in the house, and used to carry a few around with me in the car in case I spent time elsewhere.

Usually problems arise with a repair like yours if, over time and wear, one of the screws might come loose, which can be visualized on X-ray, so if you notice a particularly painful spot in that area, your doc can check out pictures of it, and if a screw is loose and then even perhaps any of the rods move as a result, this can be restored and repaired.  Also, often the muscles that function around the area of injury will get to spasming, and this can hurt like the devil.  This is how come back injury patients are put in physical therapy after they can walk around, to where they teach you strenghtening exercises so that your back muscles don't get strained and bunched up so much.  Also, from my own experience with that muscle spasm back pain that comes and goes, I go to a few visits with a professional massage therapist, I like the Swedish type of massage, and they rub out all my tensed-up back, leg, and foot muscles for me, and with that the pain goes away, and I'm good to go for months.

You need to ask the doctor who was in charge of your post-accident care or at least the physical therapy people about what sorts of things you can and cannot do on a daily basis.  For example, I was eventually released and told I could do anything I wanted to, but I found that when I finally decided to go back to one of my favorite pasttimes, horseback riding, the jolt when the horse went through his gaits was felt at the spot where my back broke, and so I kind of gave that up, altho I don't think anything bad happened; it just scared me, similar to the way you get scared over rather simpler stuff.

I do know that you must go through a period of recuperation from the injury and operation, which is rest.  But you should also ask the doc who cared for you after the accident or the PT people about what sorts of activities you should begin with after you have rested for a while.  Walking and easy swimming are good choices, and I did those after about three months post-injury, so I think you are now in range of beginning to move around more, which is borne out by them starting PT.  Also, I wore a metal and leather buckle back brace about nine months post-surgery, if memory serves me right, but I always took it off when I laid down to rest.  And to this day, I still practice some of my physical therapy exercises to keep the muscles in my back strong, there's about three that I still do.  

Hope this helps, but do take some of these questions to your back doctor or if that's not possible, to the PT folks, to be absolutely sure about timeframes and activity limitations.  And I definitely think you should go ahead and hire or arrange for someone to come into the home on a daily basis, except when someone else is normally there, for a couple more months, to do all the stuff that your five-year-old needs.  And always pay attention to your posture...do not lean forward at all, like you should give up doing dishes, wiping off counters, fixing meals, making the bed, NO VACUUMING... I know, that's pretty much giving up on your house chores, but let it pile up until someone else can take care of that from time to time until you can get it together and feel better.  It hurts to lean forward or bend over.  Besides, you just broke your back, dah'ling!!!  And sorry I talked so long, but it's a subject that interests me and I wanted to help you as much as I could.
GG
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7806252_tn?1394378927
I was building a garage for a customer. I work alone and for myself. It was an icy cold morning, but was trying to do finishing touches on the roof of the garage from a ladder. I made the one of the last few cut, when the ladder kicked out. A large chunk of concrete under the foot of the ladder popped free, sending the ladder to the right. As I was falling with the running Skil Saw in my hand, I had to throw it towards the street. My body was falling straight down back first due to kicking the ladder far away from my landing site. The landing site was the edge of the pad, which wasn't level with the ground. My L3 is where I ended up landing, but not before I twisted as far to the left as possible, as to not land directly on my L3. So ultimately I landed on my left side of my L3 to loose less force as I hit. I was hurt very badly, but now healed. I knew then that I skipped my death again. I for sure would've broken my back if I landed square on it. I too am lucky to be alive. Brandon Darrin
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