Approximately 1.5 million spinal compression fractures occur in the U.S. every year. They are most common in the elderly population, especially in postmenopausal women, and although they are not life-threatening injuries, they can result in severe pain and mobility issues that impact a person’s everyday activities and quality of life.
At Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida, we offer the latest treatment options for spinal compression fractures. Learn more about what having a compression fracture in the spine is and the treatment options that are available.
Spinal compression fractures, also called vertebral compression fractures (VCFs), are fractures or breaks that occur in your vertebrae, which are the bones that make up your spinal column. The breaks happen in the vertebral bodies, which are the thick, rounded parts at the front of each vertebra.
The most common cause of a compression fracture in the spine is osteoporosis, but it can also occur after trauma or because of tumors on the spinal column. People who have a VCF are at risk of developing future fractures both in the vertebral body and in the hip. It is important to seek treatment if you have been diagnosed with a compression fracture.
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As the damage to the vertebra begins, you may not have any symptoms at all, but as it progresses, you can experience:
- A decrease in height
- Worsening back pain that is alleviated only by lying down
- Limited spine movement
- Kyphosis, or a stooped-over posture
- Weak muscles
- Numbness or tingling
- Problems walking
- Progressive collapse leading to nerve damage
People who experience a rapid compression fracture in the spine may feel immediate and severe back pain.
These symptoms can range from mild to severe. The majority of VCF can be treated conservatively. It is important to seek an appropriate diagnosis to confirm that your compression fracture can be treated without intervention.
Diagnosis of VCFs
At Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida, our Spine Specialists will consult with you about your symptoms and perform an examination. During the initial consultation, your posture and spine alignment will be checked, gently pushing on various areas of your back to identify sources of pain. We will also check for signs of nerve damage, such as tingling, muscle weakness, and numbness.
We will also recommend imaging studies like CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs to see your bones, tissues, and muscles.
Treatment of Spinal Compression Fractures
The cause of the spinal compression fractures will dictate the best treatment options. If the cause is osteoporosis, we will treat that with bone-strengthening medications as well as supplements like vitamin D and calcium. Physical therapy can also be effective in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Pain relief medication, including muscle relaxers, tylenol and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help you deal with the symptoms of compression fractures.
We may also recommend wearing a back brace that supports your vertebrae and reduces how much you move your spine. This stabilization can be effective at relieving pain and preventing further damage.
If these non-invasive treatments do not resolve the problem, interventional options like vertebroplasties and kyphoplasties are available. During kyphoplasty, we will use a small needle to inject special bone cement into the fractured vertebra to restore its shape. The bone cement offers support and reduces pain.
Living with a Spinal Compression Fracture
If the fracture has osteoporosis as its origin, it will usually heal within three to six months, becoming less painful with rest and medications. There are instances, however, when the fracture can cause long-term concerns. Medicines to treat osteoporosis will help prevent new fractures.
Prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is the best way to avoid spinal compression fractures. Avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol use, and engaging in regular resistance exercises can strengthen bones and muscles to prevent osteoporosis.
Visit the Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida for Spinal Compression Fractures
If you think your back pain may be the result of a spinal compression fracture, visit the Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida. We are here to give you the comprehensive musculoskeletal care you need to help you get back to feeling like your best self. Contact us by calling (239) 334-7000 or online by filling out this short contact form.