Vertebral Compression Fractures 101: The Basics

July 23, 2018 0
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Given that there are more than 30 million Americans dealing with a back issue at any given time, it’s common that people feel back pain. Slight muscle soreness can come from even a healthy overexertion at the gym however if you’re suffering from a vertebral compression fracture, your pain could mean serioustrouble.

If you’re wondering whether you’re dealing with a compression fracture, here are some of the basic facts you need to know.

What is a Vertebral Compression Fracture?

A compression fracture is a common type of spinal issue that causes pain. When you’re experiencing a compression fracture, it might be a mystery as to what caused it in the first place.

This fracture, which stems from the compression of bone in your spine, can lead to pain and discomfort. Once you get it diagnosed, you can begin to start the healing process. Before it’s diagnosed, however, it’s hard to pinpoint.

It’s a particularly common issue for postmenopausal women who are most likely to suffer from osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones. Additionally, if youhave a family history of osteoporosis, you need to be especially careful of this type of issue.

Talk to the other people in your family and see if they’ve experienced similar issues. If they’ve had to deal with a vertebral fracture in the past, you should get an exam as soon as you feel related discomfort.

People suffering from an osteoporotic fracture can be helped with physical therapy, medication, bracing, or a simple outpatient procedure known as a kyphoplasty.

Vertebral compression is deeply uncomfortable but thankfully there are many ways to treat the problem.

What Are Some of the Causes?

There are many issues that can cause these fractures to happen or put your vertebrae at risk of fracture.

People who are experiencing any type of osteoporosis or cancer can experience a weakened spine. Cancer, especially metastases,can weaken your bones and vertebrae and just one weakened vertebra can cause undue pressure on the rest of your spine.

Once one vertebra has weakened, your spine may not have the bone material it needs to support your entire spine. Simple daily activities can cause your spinal column serious issues and chronic pain. A compression fracture will only worsen over time once it occurs.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative issue that causes your bones to weaken. Your bones can become brittle and fragile even if you’re taking supplements and increasing your calcium intake. While a healthy diet can help you to avoid some of the common issues related to spinal compression, you might not be able to avoid them entirely.

Where Are They Located?

A vertebral compression fracture can happen just about any point along the length of your spine. They usually happen most commonly in your thoracic region also known as as your rib cage. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae. Fractures can also be found in the low back or lumbar region of the spine in some patients. There are 5 lumbar vertebrae.

Compression fractures create a wedge shape in your vertebral body. In this case, the front of your spinal column will collapse while the rest of the bone structure will remain the same.

Fractures can happen in more than one vertebrae and can even be found in multiple locations.

The Symptoms of a Fracture

There are a variety of symptoms when you have a fracture. If it’s mild enough, it could be slight discomfort. You could have multiple fractures and only feel uncomfortable while a single fracture in the right spot could leave you on the floor.

When you feel a severe back pain that usually feels better after a night’s sleep, that means there’s some compression taking a toll on your spine. The area where you have the fracture might even have some tenderness when you touch it.

Sometimes, these collapsed vertebrae can compress your nerves. This could potentially happen in more than one place. This will lead to a sort of radiating pain that runs along the length of the nerve and lead as far as your legs. This nerve pain could be unbearable.

If you’re twisting and bending and feel pain, you could have a fracture. If you’re shrinking, have a hunched position, or can’t move as freely, these could be signs that you have a spinal fracture.

Treatments

Thankfully there are a number of potential treatments for your fracture. When it’s mild and you’re an otherwise healthy person, you could see your situation improve with bracing and rest.

Pain medication is another way of treating the discomfort however pain medication comes with many side effects including but not limited to constipation, sedation, nausea, vomiting, and addiction

Even heat and cold therapy can help. Having a family member or partner help you is good for this treatment. Spending 15 minutes with heat then 15 minutes with cool packs on your back for a few hours could end up helping immensely.

A very good interventional option to treat compression fractures is kyphoplasty. In this outpatient procedure, the patient is sedated while cement is placed in the fracture bone to heal it via a tiny straw like instrument. This often accomplishes 2 goals – stops the pain and restores normal spine anatomy and architecture. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to perform and patient’s go home the same day feeling much better. This procedure is covered by most insurances including Medicare.

Vertebral Compression Fractures Aren’t an End

Some people fear back pain will be the end of their recreational sports hobby, their enjoyment of life, or their ability to travel long distances. Vertebral compression fractures are no such thing. A fracture can heal and be as good as new in just a few weeks with the right treatment.

If you have diabetes, you should know about the types of spinal issues that can be associated with the ailment.


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