In The Dark Knight Rises, during the sewer fight scene we see Bane lift Batman up and drop him on his knee, reminiscent of the comic book scene where Batman's back is literally broken.

Are we to believe Batman's back was actually broken here? Is the amount of time that passed (for his recovery) a realistic length of time to enable him to fight Bane and jump around in later scenes?

  • What? I'll never have a cloud to fly around on? Aw... But answering your initial question: Probably not, because he wouldn't be able to recover then. You definitely can hurt your back without permanent damage though.
    – Mario
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 6:32
  • @Mario that cloud may not be too far away. Much science fiction has come true in some form or another. Look at facetime and smart cars. There's even a group of people walking around calling themselves "real life superheros" patrolling the streets of Seattle. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 6:35

2 Answers 2


Here's an actual doctor commenting on the back break and recovery. His conclusion is...

  • The diagnosis (herniated disc) is impossible given the trauma.
  • You can't punch a herniated disc back into place.
  • A herniated disc takes 8 weeks to 4 months to recover without surgery.

Another type of broken back is a compression fracture. They can be caused by a hard fall on your feet or osteoporosis. With no surgery, a compression fracture will heal in 8-10 weeks. Batman probably didn't have a compression fracture, but I throw it in there to show that a broken back doesn't have to be severe. Some people with compression fractures don't even know it, they think it's just chronic back pain.

Surgery takes longer to recover from, so Batman has that going for him. If I recall, it was easily several months between having his back broken and returning to Gotham. So the timing works out.

Being moved anywhere, much less across the world (probably roughly), is exactly what you don't want to do to a patient with a broken back. It greatly increases the likelihood of spinal injury. Points against for that.

As for the "treatment" by hanging, this is sort of like closed reduction. Sort of. If you squint. It's a fancy way of saying you put the bones back into place without surgery (the closed part), immobilize them, and let them grow back together. I guess the hanging makes sure his back is straight... maybe? Fashioning a back brace probably would have worked better. "It works best when it is done as soon as possible after the bone breaks"... oh well. The one part the movie definitely got right is a closed reduction is very painful.

We all know the real reason Bruce Wayne was able to recover from a broken back.


The screenplay outright states that Bane broke Batman's back:

Batman SWINGS at him - misses - Bane GRABS him, lifts him HIGH.

Bane : ...or your body.

Bane brings Batman down onto his knee, BREAKING his back with a horrific CRACK.

In real life this would be a crippling condition for life. Obviously in the comic-book world of Batman there are plenty of healing technologies that are unavailable to us mere mortals but the on-screen method by which he recovers (hanging, with periodic punching to correct his herniated disks) is frankly ridiculous:

You have a protruding vertebra...I'm going to force it back

WAYNE : How -?

The Prisoner punches Wayne in the back, hard. Wayne screams.

  • 3
    @tango - It betrays a lack of understanding (or care) on the part of the writers that vertebra can simply be pushed back into place, let alone with blunt trauma. My guess is that they wished to draw the analogy with a dislocated shoulder or knee.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 8:06
  • 5
    Being in the position of having a herniated disk, having the condition explained to me at some detail... "herniated" is correct, but "ruptured" is actually more descriptive of what happens. It's not so much that the disk "slipped" and needs to be put back into place; the disk is irreparably damaged, like a leather ball with some of the bladder protruding. You cannot "force it back". The best you can do is ease the pressure on the surrounding tissue, including the sciatic (which is usually what makes the condition so painful). So, the injury and the treatment don't really match up. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 14:52
  • 5
    @DevSolar - I'm delighted to say that your misfortune represents the perfect opportunity for us to test the theory. I'll hang you from the ceiling and repeatedly punch you until you pass out from pain, then you can report the results.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:48
  • 9
    "I'll hang you from the ceiling and repeatedly punch you until you pass out from pain, then you can report the results." - to the police, one assumes. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 22:24
  • 3
    @DevSolar - Schwern seems to think the idea has some merit. I vote we ask him to volunteer to have his back broken, then we hang him and pummel him to see if it works.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 16:08

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