FAQ’s on Vertebral Compression Fracture
What is a Vertebral Compression Fracture?
A vertebral compression fracture is a condition of the back in which one or more vertebrae are compressed beyond what the bone can withstand, resulting in damaged or destroyed vertebrae. This usually can occur as a result of compression of the spine bones following trauma, but is also possible for patients who have their vertebrae weakened through disease. This is especially true for those patients with cancer, but is also common among the elderly because their bones are fragile. The vertebrae of the lower back are the ones that most commonly break, although any other part of the spine may break.
Some of the causes of the condition are trauma, osteoporosis, and pathologic fracture. Usually, in osteoporosis, bone density is reduced which, in some cases, may lead to vertebral compression fracture without or with little trauma. Trauma that results in a vertical compression fracture is most commonly an injury causing a break of vertebra. This is the result of too much force being applied to them at one time, far exceeding what the vertebrae and discs are able to absorb. This can occur following a fall from a tall height and landing on buttocks or the feet. Pathological fractures occur in the vertebra as a result of a disease at the fracture site. These can result from cancer in the bone, with some of the most common cancers being originating from the prostate, lungs, or breast.
What are the signs and symptoms of Vertebral Compression Fracture?
- Pain which mainly occurs either in lower back or any of the following sites; neck, upper or middle back, or in the hip or abdominal region in some people.
- Weakness, tingling, and numbness: This may indicate nerve compression at the fracture site.
- Problems in stool and urine control or retention of urine: This may indicate that the fracture is pushing the spinal cord and compressing an abdominal nerve
- A visible shortening of the patient can be the result of multiple fractures occurring. Patients may also adopt an awkward gait in an effort to cope with the now unstable spine.
It is advisory to go for a medical checkup for such situations as: in elderly ages (above 65 years), cancer, persistent pain during work and rest, unintentional loss of weight, loss of control of defecation or urine, and high fever (temperatures exceeding 100 F).
A vertebral compression fracture is examined through X-rays (for people aged above 65 years who may have had cancer or trauma), CT scan of the spine (in case of a fracture to determine the extent of the fracture), spine surgery consultation (in case of a severe fracture), and MRI of the spine (performed on patients with urine or fecal matter retention and used to find compressed nerves).
What are the Treatments of a Vertebral Compression Fracture?
The condition may be treated through resting and icing the area, use of pain relief medication such as opiates (hydrocodone), exercises, and admission to the hospital depending on the state of the condition. Other pain medication may include muscle relaxants (cyclobenzaprine, carisoprodol, and diazepam), , and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen and naproxen) to reduce inflammation of the area. In some situations, surgery is required to stabilize the vertebra adjacent to the site of the fracture and also to prevent the spinal cord been pressed by the spine. Surgery may also be required to administer a spinal fusion for those patients who have suffered a loss of spinal stability.
How Can a Person Prevent Vertebral Compression Fracture?
The most significant way to prevent vertebral compression fracture is by preventing osteoporosis. This may be done through eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercises (such as strength-training and weight-bearing exercise) which increases the strength of the bones.
Additional prevention measures are cessation of smoking for smokers, consumption of vitamin D and calcium supplements for people with risk of osteoporosis, and replacement of estrogen for women who are past menopause.
If you are experiencing significant mid or low back pain from a suspected compression fracture, treatment is available. Let Colorado Pain provide you with the best pain management doctors in Denver at (720) 306-9575 today!