Cracked Vertebrae, Fractured Bones

Most bones are said to either fracture or break. Vertebrae, however, are often said to have cracked. Is there a medical difference between a crack and a fracture? If not, why do people say bones break/fracture but vertebrae crack?

I’m a doctor and I’ve never heard the term ‘cracked vertebrae’, maybe it’s a colloquialism. Medically, all broken bones are fractures.

Also an MD. All fractures are fractures, even vertebral.

Not an MD, but an X-ray guy, and, yep, it’s “fractured.”

I’ve heard “cracked a rib” or “cracked elbow”, but only as a verbal shorthand. I doubt you’ed ever see “cracked vertebra” in a radiologist’s dictation, for example.

I’m just some guy off the street and the phrase “cracked bone” makes me think of a greenstick, which is something that rarely happens to irregular bones.

To an average person a broken back is a frightening and devastating thing. It is therefore very necessary to use a word that reassures the hearer or reader that the injury in question is not deadly. Hence, cracked.

Broken wrists and legs are, on the other hand, assumed to be painful, but to probably not be life or lifestyle threatening. If a broken leg is severe enough to be life or lifestyle threatening, other descriptors will be added to make the threat level clear.

Just got back from taking my 82 year old mother to the doc. MRI is not back yet but from x-rays they think her fall caused a compression fracture of t5 and t10.

They definetly said fracture. And yes, today sucked.

I guess it must be colloquial thing, and I guess less common than I thought, too. I’m not that surprised to hear it’s not an actual medical term.

Speaking as someone who “broke” his back, it was definitely fractured, not cracked. Hell, cracked would have been preferable. But the Docs all used the term fractured when discussing the injury. Of course they also used the term recover. I don’t think that term meant what they think it meant. :slight_smile: