There are several types of fractures that are diagnosed by x-ray and can be categorized based on the location and involved structures.
The most common type of fracture in the lumbar spine that usually is a result of a fall. Typically this can be treated with conservative measures such as rest and therapy. Other conditions such as tumors and osteoporosis may be evaluated as an underlying cause.
Burst fractures usually occur with a traumatic compressive load resulting in a significant decreased in the height of the vertebral bodies. This fracture is considered unstable and requires immediate medical evaluation and stabilization.
This type of fracture more commonly occurs at T1 and L1 vertebral bodies and typically involves some loss of vertebral height. X-rays are utilized to determine the stability of the fracture. If the middle and posterior columns are intact, the fracture is thought to be stable and treated with conservative measure.
This is also referred to as a Chance Fracture. It is often the result of a car accident when a seat belt is utilized. All three columns of the vertebral body are involved with possible injury to the disc, ligaments and the bone. It is an unstable fracture that requires immediate medical evaluation and stabilization.
Typically the result of multiple forces where compression affects the lateral margins of the vertebral body and torsion/translational forces may affect the bones, ligaments or discs.
References: www.spineuniverse.com: Spinal Trauma and Fractures by Ms. Teri Holwerda, RN 12/29/05 www.orthoinfo.aaos.org: Fracture of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine.