Is a healed vertebrae (sp???) ever as good as a normal one?

Many months ago I fractured a vertebrae in my spine (it has become slightly wedge shaped) It is now fully healed and I can move, twist, and lift heavy objects with confidence.

Could I ever be a gymnast/martial arts master/stunt man? Or would doctors advize against it?
In other words, does a healed bone ever get back the strength it had before it broke?

I don’t know about vertebrae specifically, but bone healing in general depends on lots of things like diet, general health, heredity, type of break, age…

You say you can move, twist, lift, etc. with confidence - how about without pain?

I would think this is something a doctor would have to see you in person for, and might involve things like an x-ray to really answer your question.

Yes, very much without pain. In fact, since I injured my back I haven’t had a ‘bad back’. It’s as if the break did the back some good somehow. Beforehand I was prone to back-pain, mainly due to posture.

The type of injury was clasified as the mildest/least severe type (they have names but I can’t remember the name). In fact, I wasn’t even aware that I had broken my back until they saw the x-ray. I was in hospital believing I had broken my foot. They left me waiting sat (upright) on a bed for ages, when someone eventually came to see me and asked how I was I mentioned the foot and then said “My back is a bit more uncomfortable than usual, but that may be because I have been sat upright for so long” This made the doctor decide to x-ray my spine as well as my foot.

I would never use the SDMB for serious life-threatening medical advice. I was just wondering what the SD was/is on bone healing strength.

Several years ago, I broke my C2 vertebra (the Christopher Reeve one) while skydiving. Here’s my take on it.

  • The vertebra itself will most likely be stronger after it heals, just like any other bone will.

  • Back pain is typically caused by the discs pressing on nerves that go through small spaces when they exit the spine. Your reduction in back pain could be because the bone moved slightly to give the nerves more room.

  • Back injuries from lifting, etc., tend to be injuries to the discs, so your stronger vertebra bone shouldn’t help that.

I’d say that if you now have full range of motion, you could do about anything you want, unless a doctor who knows more about your particular situation advises you otherwise.

Bone is the only tissue in the body that heals itself with a stronger, higher-grade material than the original. So that part of your question has been addressed correctly–the bone itself will be stronger at the former break line than the surrounding bone.

You asked, “Could I ever be a gymnast/martial arts master/stunt man? Or would doctors advize [sic] against it?”…My question is, could you do those things before? Have you a history of disciplined physical training and expertise in maintaining flexibility? The pursuits you mention are very dangerous even for people WITHOUT prior vertebral fracture. You don’t mention how you injured your spine, but adrenaline-charged risk-taking behavior (common among even the most professional stunt people) predisposes one to more injuries and more severe injuries than might otherwise occur. Also, some of the ligamentous tissues (joint capsules, discs) surrounding the area of your fracture likely experienced micro-tears, which heal with a cheap, low-grade fibrotic scar tissue that is prone to re-injury at much lower forces than before. You can compensate to a great degree by building up the surrounding muscles as much as possible.

The idea that “Back pain is typically caused by the discs pressing on nerves that go through small spaces when they exit the spine” is incorrect. Back pain has a list of possible etiologies too numerous to cover here, but by far the vast majority of it is NOT caused by discs pressing on spinal nerve roots. Such pressure is more likely to produce pain or dysfunction in the region of the body serviced by that particular nerve. In fact, many people having a disc bulge or herniation do not even know it until it is discovered by a doctor. Most back pain is typically caused by muscle strain, spinal joint dysfunction (joints moving too freely or not freely enough, essentially), resulting muscle spasm designed to protect the area, and lesions to the facet joints. The facets are the small joints at the back of the vertebrae which are wrapped in ligamentous joint capsules with lubricating fluid inside and are richly innervated with pain nerves. Trauma, slouching, postural abnormalities, etc. can place undue stress on these relatively fragile joints and cause pain and/or an inflammation response.

If you are able to move without pain throughout all normal ranges of motion and have been fully evaluated by a spinal expert such as a chiropractic physician or other qualified personnel, my advice would be to (a) be extra attentive to safety and (b) go for it while you can. In life we tend to regret the things we do not do far more than the things we do.

To keep bones strong is to keep stressing them, thus an active lifestyle is paramount in this regard.
So be a stuntman or a martial artist to your heart’s content.