Compression Fractures of the Spine

Spinal compression fractures are caused by a collapse of vertebral bone. This condition can affect one or more vertebrae and typically develops in the middle or lower back.

What You Need To Know About Compression Fractures of the Spine

What is a Compression Fracture of the Spine?

A spinal compression fracture is a painful condition where the vertebrae develop breaks or cracks over time. As you age and your bone density decreases, the spine can weaken and collapse from long-term compression. When left unchecked, the fractured vertebrae can cause the spine to bend, making your posture appear "hunched over". It can also cause pain and limited mobility.

There are two types of compression fractures: a lumbar compression fracture in the lower back; and a thoracic compression fracture in the middle of the back. These fractures are usually located in the vertebral body, which is a thick, rounded area towards to front of each vertebra. This happens because the back of the vertebrae is composed of harder bone and is less susceptible to breakage.

If you're struggling with pain due to a vertebral compression fracture, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens spine physician today.

What Causes Compression Fractures in the Back?

The majority of spinal compression fractures develop because of osteoporosis, a condition where a loss of bone density causes your bones to become weak and brittle. This loss of bone density happens naturally as we age, causing wear and tear on the spine. Aging is the biggest risk factor for spinal compression fractures, but women over 50 are at higher risk for this condition.

Daily activities such as bending down or coughing can gradually damage your vertebrae if you have osteoporosis. Compression fractures in the back can also be caused by traumatic injuries, such as car accidents or slip and fall. Cancer of the spine can also cause the compressed vertebrae to weaken and crack.

Compression Fracture Symptoms

Every injury is different, and compression fracture symptoms may vary from person to person. The pain from a sudden vertebral compression fracture can be severe and debilitating, while compressed vertebrae that develop gradually may only cause mild pain.

Compression fractures can also change your height and cause you to lose several inches over time. Since fractured vertebrae cause the spine to bend forward, this may result in a stooped posture and rounded back. Compression fractures can put pressure on the spinal nerves that travel to the legs, making walking difficult and interfering with the function of the bowels and bladder.

How are Compression Fractures of the Spine Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a compression fracture, your Resurgens physician will first talk with you about your medical history and how the condition started. Then, they will perform a physical exam to check the alignment and posture of the spine. They will push on different areas of the back to identify the source of the pain and look for signs of nerve damage. This exam is brief and will only cause mild discomfort.

Then, your doctor will order diagnostic imaging to gather more information and rule out any other potential conditions. They will also perform a DEXA scan, which measures bone density. After reviewing your imaging and exam results, they will give you a formal diagnosis and talk with you about your treatment options.

Spinal Compression Fracture Treatment

There are several non-surgical and surgical treatment methods for a compression fracture in the back. Some compression fracture treatment options may include:

Non-Surgical Treatment

Treatment options may include rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to manage your pain. You may also benefit from back support, such as a brace. Physical therapy and rehabilitative stretches are also effective compression fracture treatments. For those with severe pain, corticosteroid injections can help too.

Surgical Treatment

If the fractured vertebrae do not respond to non-surgical treatment methods, you may benefit from a procedure such as a vertebroplasty or a kyphoplasty. Vertebroplasty is an outpatient procedure where a surgeon will use a needle to insert acrylic bone cement into the affected area, stabilizing the fracture. A kyphoplasty is a similar procedure that uses a balloon to guide the cement and straighten the vertebrae into place.

Your spine physician will be able to advise you on the best treatment plan for your condition. If you're struggling with pain from a compression fracture in the back, get moving again by scheduling an appointment with Resurgens today.

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