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Transverse Process Fracture

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Transverse Process Fracture


A transverse process fracture is a break in one or more of the wing like bones on the right and left side of each vertebra in the spine.

Cross Section of Spine.

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Transverse process fractures are caused by trauma from:

  • Falls
  • Car, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents
  • Severe and sudden twisting or bending
  • Severe blows to the back and spine
  • Violence, such as a gunshot

Risk Factors

Transverse process fractures are more common in older adults. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Having health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
  • Low muscle mass
  • Playing sports that involve sudden twists and turns or extreme contact
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Being around violence


Transverse process fractures can happen at any place in the spinal column. They may cause:

  • Severe pain that may be worse when moving
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Numbness, tingling, or weak muscles
  • Problems moving the injured part of the spine
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Questions will also be asked about how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will also look for nerve damage.

Pictures may be taken to look at the spine. This can be done with:


It can take up to 6 weeks to heal. The goal of treatment is to help the bones heal properly to prevent long term problems.


Most fractures happen due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.





  • Fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/fractures-of-the-thoracic-and-lumbar-spine.
  • Spinal trauma—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/spinal-trauma-emergency-management.


  • Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.