Did you know that the spine is very flexible? In fact, if you bent it as far as it could go, it would make about 2/3 of a complete circle.
However, as almost everyone knows, a small pain in the back has a huge impact. But what if that pain represents a much bigger problem? Women over 40 are susceptible to bone mass loss because of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a reduction in the mass of the spongy inner bone. The spongy tissue gives the hard outer bone its strength. As this fails, bones become weaker, break easier and take longer to heal.
In the back, this can lead to a very severe problem called spinal compression fractures.
The vertebrae don’t break in half as we think of other bones breaking. Instead, they crush inward. This tends to happen when doing a simple task which puts increased pressure on the bone.
Keep reading to learn the most important things you need to know about the treatment of this condition.
Treatments Options Not Requiring Surgery
Surgery isn’t always the first option when dealing with spinal compression fractures. In fact, surgery may not be necessary at all.
1. Pain Meds
A doctor will try to reduce your pain first. Pain tells us when something is wrong. In many cases, OTC pain meds reduce most of the pain.
Sometimes, OTC meds are not enough. The doctor will then prescribe a specific mixture to relieve the various types of pain. Because of the type and location of the bone, you will have muscle, bone and nerve pain.
In some cases, doctors will give you small doses of muscle relaxers or anti-depressants.
2. Bed Rest
Sometimes the fracture is severe enough to warrant a few days of bed rest. A few days to start the healing process will suffice.
Because osteoporosis worsens from lack of movement, extended bed rest isn’t a good idea. The rest begins the healing process, so you can start moving again and attacking the weakness at its source.
3. Back Brace
Most spinal compression fractures occur in the transition between the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. These are the vertebrae between your chest and your lower back.
Fractures are more common here because of the increased flexibility of the joints. A brace will greatly reduce that flexibility and prevent aggravating the injury further.
When getting a brace, remember the key to an effective brace. The less comfortable the brace, the more effective it will be.
4. Treating Osteoporosis
You have rested a couple days. Your pain meds are working. And you are wearing your brace with almost religious fervor, what next?
The cause of the fracture needs to be determined in order for treatment to continue. If osteoporosis caused the fracture, the doctor will want to get that under control.
Once one vertebra has fractured, the chance of surrounding bones breaking increases. As with most diseases, a multifaceted approach to treatment builds the best defense.
Dietarily, increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D from foods before reaching for pills. Small fish, seaweed, and leafy greens provide high doses of calcium. Vitamin D resides in dairy, salmon, eggs, and mushrooms.
Exercise will slowly be incorporated into your treatment as well. Free weight put small amounts of stress on the spine and bones to cause them to grow.
Hormone therapy can slow the rate bone breakdown, or speed the rate of bone rebuilding. Either choice benefits the strength of bones.
Other medications will help regulate or increase calcium availability in the body.
Surgical Spinal Compression Fracture Treatment
Most surgical options use some sort of bone cement to treat the fracture.
Vertebroplasty involves inserting a needle, guided by an x-ray, into the spongy tissue. Once there, the needle injects bone cement into the spongy tissue.
The cement hardens within minutes and patients can go home the same day in most cases. This has proven effective for restoring patient function, but not for pain.
Kyphoplasty or balloon kyphoplasty developed as the next generation of vertebroplasty. One needle is still inserted into the spongy tissue of the bone and guided by an x-ray.
However, a balloon comes out the tip of the needle first. With gentle inflation, it restores the vertebra to nearly the original shape. Then, after deflating and withdrawing the balloons, surgeons inject bone cement into the cavity.
This procedure restores patient function, reduces pain. What’s more, it brings the spine back to a natural curvature.
This last point makes it more effective at treating the potential long-term deformities of spinal compression fractures.
Time is of The Essence
If you have pain in your back lasting more than a few days, that warning needs attention. Or if you have noticed a sharp drop in your mobility seek medical care.
Spinal compression fractures become more common as your age goes beyond 40. And waiting for more than a few weeks can result in permanent body damage.
For more information on the debilitating fractures or to make an appointment, get in touch with us here.