What Are Spinal Compression Fractures?
As we age, the bone structure that makes up our spine can sometimes soften and weaken, making our bones prone to small, hairline fractures. As these fractures increase and accumulate, they may lead to the collapse of a vertebra known as spinal or vertebral body compression fractures. This condition can be excruciating and may change the spine’s overall shape, leading to poor posture.
Symptoms of Spinal Compression Fractures
Compression fractures are often described as a sharp, stab-like pain in the affected area of the spine, which is exacerbated by movement such as bending or remaining in the same position, either standing or sitting, for long periods. The pain levels can range from mild to severe. The most common form of compression fractures are wedge factors which can be classified into two categories: crush fractures, which occur when the bone is broken in its entirety, and burst fractures, which happen when there is damage to the front and back walls of the vertebra.
Causes of Spinal Compression Fractures
The leading cause of spinal or vertebral body compression fractures is brittle bones, which are often the result of a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes the thinning of our bone tissue and leads to a decrease in their density. When bones become fragile, they are increasingly prone to fractures. Other risk factors include:
Cancer: Certain kinds of cancers, specifically those that affect bone tissue, can cause the weakening of vertebrae leading to fractures.
Physical Trauma: Fractures can also occur due to physical trauma to the back, resulting from accidents and injuries.
- Age: Adults over the age of 60 are more likely to develop spinal compression fractures since our bones become more fragile over time.
- Sex: Women over the age of 50 and that have already experienced menopause have higher chances of suffering from osteoporosis.
Spinal Compression Fracture Treatment
During your visit, a physician will perform a thorough physical examination, including checking the curvature of your spine and whether you have recently developed a hump. Your doctor will also consider your symptoms, family, and medical histories and may order tests such as blood work, MRIs, CT scans, and X-Rays. They can also recommend a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. If the underlying cause of your spinal compression fracture is osteoporosis, the following treatment options are available:
- Physical Therapy
- Calcium supplements
- Over the counter pain killers
- Prescription medications
- A back brace
- Kyphoplasty & Vertebroplasty
If you or anyone you know currently has osteoporosis or a combination of the previously discussed symptoms, we highly encourage you to reach out to our team. Our interventional pain specialists have decades of expertise and would be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have. Together, we can create a plan to help you manage your pan that best works for you.