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Lumbar Transverse Process Fractures: Science Based

Scientific chiropractor Dr. Alexander Jimenez discusses the transverse processes — and how they’re fractured.

This discussion relates to a run of transverse process fractures seen over a period in contact sports athletes. First described by Ehrlich in 1908 (at Kennedy 1927), transverse process fracture is an infrequent injury seen in sports individuals and it is most often found in direct contact harms or powerful forceful contraction of the quadrutus lumborum muscle while the backbone is in one side flexed position.


Each vertebra has a pair of wing-like protrusions out from each side. They function as a point of attachment for muscles and ligaments. The processes are located in three regions of the spine: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae. Each process has a role in each area.

Cervical Spine

The T procedures in the cervical spine behave as attachment points for muscles such as the scalenes the muscles and levator scapulae as well as some ligaments that add to spinal assistance. The T procedures in the cervical spine are unique in that they have small holes that permit the passage. The T processes by providing a bony cage protect this important artery.

Thoracic Spine

The thoracic transverse processes’ unique feature is they enable attachment of the ribs through the costotransverse joint. These articulations are essential to permit rib function through breathing and movement.

Lumbar Spine

At the lumbar spine, the T processes are very developed as they form a base for lots of the back muscles that are potent to attach onto.

Muscles such as the quadrutus lumborum, the center layer of the thoracolumbar fascia (indirect attachment for internal nerves and the transverse abdominus), psoas major and longissimus thoracis attach onto the transverse processes. With many trunk muscles dangling on the T procedures, the form and duration of these processes are a lot larger than in the thoracic and cervical.

Between the transverse processes are ligaments that are small and proprioceptive muscles known as the rotarores and the intertransversi. These behave as position sensors that allow feeling during backbone movements.

Interestingly, a ossification center develops in the tip of the processes and don’t completely fuse until the mid 20s. Anomalies from dimensions and the shape of the transverse processes may exist, and false positives for fracture could be present from young mature and the adolescent.

Mechanisms Of Injury

Transverse processes are typically fractured in direct blows from athletics touch or impact from falls from bikes/motorbikes or by heights. They can be injured in automobile accidents. These are usually all speed trauma and, as a result, damage to organs might also be present. It is also common for there to be transverse process fractures because of the degree of the direct trauma.

Powerful muscle contraction whilst at a forward bending and/or spinning position or in powerful flexion movements may make a muscle attachment to avulse or pull the transverse procedure. This sometimes happens in sports which involve rough wrestling grappling, rugby, MMA and judo.

Finally microtrauma to the transverse processes because of repetitive action in game may lead to fractures of the fractures. This mechanism of harm has been identified in cricket fast bowlers (Bali et al 2011) because of the insistent side flexion movements associated with bowling that makes an attachment pressure in the quadrutus lumborum muscle.

This writer has seen three significant thoracic spine transverse process fractures in specialist level rugby union players. The three mechanism of injury were:

1. Blow off a knee whilst being cleared from a breakdown. L3 transverse procedures and the L2 fractured without organ injury or any bone.

2. Contact was being run into by A player and was hit hard around the upper chest/arm from side on. The player anticipated the contact and braced prior to contact. The act of bracing required a powerful contraction and because of this the transverse process that is L3 was avulsed.

3. A participant landed on some other player’s foot and fell from a lineup. The fractured the L2 transverse procedure in addition to both the 11th and 12th ribs on precisely the exact same side.

Signs & Symptoms Of Lumbar Spine Transverse Fracture

The mechanism of injury is obvious. A direct blow in game or a strong contraction during game may precede the incident of back pain. Normally, the person will complain of pain that is deep acute and localized to the side of the backbone. When the force also injures the exiting nerve roots close to the transverse process, they might experience some radiation of pain.

Movements will be debilitating and the sufferer will find it difficult contract and to walk the muscles.

Since the muscles can clot in a position, intense muscle strain may be noticed by them. Resisted muscle testing into flexion and/or expansion will be debilitating.

Because of the close proximity of the transverse processes to the lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen and liver, in the event injury happens to these organs then the athlete could suffer organ- related symptoms such as shortness of breath, blood in the urine, and blood pressure complications.


A transverse process fracture may be shown by plain x-ray with an AP view nonetheless, x-ray could be insensitive to overlying. A CT scan will picture modest fractures that may be hard to define on x ray.


Treatment finally depends upon if there’s been damage to surrounding organs or parts of the spine. If the transverse process fracture is dispersed without any vertebral body/pedicle/ lamina fracture, nerve root cause or penis damage, then the direction is effectively conservative. If any of the above simultaneously exist management of those conditions will take precedence since they’re typically more severe in nature.

Miller et al (2000) found that in patients with transverse process fractures 48% also had concomitant abdominal organ injury. It is argued that when the force required to break a transverse process is big enough then an internal organ will be in the cases also damaged by it. Transverse fractures should be treated with a high deal of suspicion for organ involvement.

Managing there is a process fracture essentially a conservative and sign- driven process. Criteria to achieve before to return to play are:

1. Pain-free to move in and out of bed/ chair.

2. Pain-free walking

3. Pain-free running

4. Pain-free side plank 30 seconds

5. Pain-free sprinting

6. Gym movements involving abdominal contractions such as deadlifts & functional unilateral exercises eg kettle bell swings.

7. Pain-free change of direction

8. Pain-free contact in sport.

The components of the rehabilitation process run in parallel; that is, the athlete can work on strength whilst they’re also working to mild and conducting skills. Since the athlete can attain a then they’re progressed with an increase in exercise, and load, change of motion management.

Soft tissue interventions like massage to the quadrutus lumborum, with this, erector spinae will likely be helpful in addition to hot packs for the muscle strain and for pain relief of the muscle strain. Anti- inflammatory drugs may be required these may be postponed for your first week to make sure they do not interfere with the healing process. Painkillers may be necessary to sleep.

The key strength exercises which can ensure the athlete gets trunk strength may also be used to measure the improvement of the injury. These include exercises which directly utilize the attachment muscles such as obliques, erector spinae and quadrutus lumborum.

1. Side plank. These will have to be built slowly from brief 10-second holds to more 45+-second holds.

2. Romanian deadlifts. Begin with the pub and add weight. The bodyweight for 10 repetitions is a fantastic benchmark to aim for.

3. Cable wood chops. As a result of variability in pulley systems, picking a target weight is tough they need to be able to execute 10 full repetitions with a full range of movement.


1. Bali et al (2011) Multiple lumbar transverse process stress fractures as a cause of chronic low back ache in a young fast bowler – a case report. Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol. 3: 8.

2. Barker et al (2007) The middle layer of lumbar fascia and attachments to lumbar transverse processes: implications for segmental control and fracture. Eur Spine J. 16(12): 2232–2237.

3. Kennedy RH (1927) Fractures of the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae. Annal Surgery 35(4); 519-528.

4. Miller et al (2000 Lumbar transverse process fractures – a sentinel marker of abdominal organ injuries. Injury. 31(10). 773-776.

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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN* email: phone: 915-850-0900 Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*