Compression fractures happen when a vertebra in the spine collapses. This can lead to ongoing back pain that can be severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. These types of fractures often occur in the middle (thoracic) part of the spine.
If you’re having chronic back pain, it’s wise to see an orthopedic specialist like Dr. Brian K. Rich here at aCELLerated Interventional Orthopedics. Dr. Rich diagnoses and treats back pain, including pain caused by a compression fracture.
What exactly is a compression fracture?
A compression fracture is a type of vertebral fracture. The vertebrae are the backbones that are stacked on top of each other to form your spine, which supports your weight and protects your spinal cord and the nerves that link it to the rest of your body.
A compression fracture can cause a vertebra to collapse, resulting in bone fragments pressing on the spinal cord and nerves, and reducing the amount of blood and oxygen reaching the spinal cord.
Causes of compression fractures
Osteoporosis is the most common reason a compression fracture develops. Other causes include spinal injuries (from car accidents and sports injuries) and spinal tumors. The tumor could begin in the vertebrae. However, it’s more common for it to spread there from another part of the body to the spine.
Who is at risk of developing a compression fracture?
Compression fractures are more common in older adults. The best way to reduce your risk is to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Most compression fractures associated with osteoporosis are found in women, particularly after menopause. However, older men can develop osteoporosis and compression fractures as well.
People who have had one compression fracture because of osteoporosis are at a higher risk of having another.
What are the signs of a compression fracture?
When compression fractures first appear, they may not cause any symptoms. Your healthcare provider may discover the compression fracture on an X-ray that you had done for another reason.
The following are symptoms of a compression fracture:
- Back pain that is gradually worsening
- Restricted movement – Unable to bend or twist at the waist
- Kyphosis – A hunched-over posture
- Abnormal sensation – Numbness or tingling
When you have a compression fracture, lying on your back may relieve pain, while standing may aggravate it.
If the fracture occurs suddenly, you may experience severe back pain.
Diagnosing compression fractures
Dr. Rich will ask questions about your medical history and recent injuries, as well as perform a physical exam. He may also order imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI images of your spine.
If we suspect you have osteoporosis, you may need a bone density scan. This is a type of X-ray, known as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), that can determine whether osteoporosis is the cause of the fracture.
Treating compression fractures
If your compression fracture is caused by osteoporosis, you may need bone-strengthening medication as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements. We may also recommend physical therapy and exercises to prevent fractures and build bone strength.
Other treatments for a compression fracture may include rest, a back brace, and pain-relieving medication.
If nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief, Dr. Rich may recommend surgery.
The following are surgical approaches for treating a compression fracture:
Vertebroplasty involves using an X-ray guidance to inject quick-setting medical cement into the fractured vertebra. The cement supports the broken vertebra, strengthens the area, and relieves pain.
This procedure is similar to vertebroplasty. However, before the cement is injected, small balloons are used to expand the fractured space, making the vertebra to taller. The balloons are deflated, and the void is filled with cement.
If the fracture was caused by an injury, you may require surgery to repair the bone and fuse the vertebrae together.
Help for back pain
It’s essential to get to the root of your back pain, and we can help so that you can get back to enjoying your life. To get started, call the nearest office or book online to schedule a visit with Dr. Rich at one of our clinics in Southlake, Texas, or Lawton, Oklahoma.