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COMPRESSION FRACTURES

Spinal Compression Fractures

The spinal column is stacked with rectangular-shaped 33 bones called vertebrae. The most common type of vertebral fracture is called a compression fracture, which occurs when the normal vertebral body is squashed, or compressed, to a small height. Back pain caused by compression fractures get worse with motion, especially when changing positions, and is often relieved by rest or lying down. You should see a doctor to evaluate your back pain if you are older than 65 or if you have had cancer.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of back pain
  • Worsened pain while standing or moving
  • Limited back mobility
  • Loss of height
  • Eventual deformity

What Causes Spinal Compression Fractures?

Vertebral compression fractures occur in nearly 700,000 U.S. patients every year, and are especially common among adults with osteoporosis. Sadly, people who have had one osteoporotic spinal compression fracture have a fivefold risk of sustaining another. They happen because of the vertebral body collapsing, which can lead to severe pain, back deformities, and loss of height.
Other causes of spinal compression fractures include traumatic accidents, or those with bone tumors, such as multiple myeloma, that occur in the spine.

Diagnosis & Treatment

When you seek treatment for back pain, your doctor will take a complete history, perform a physical examination, and take plain X-rays or other imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis and predict the prognosis of your condition. An X-ray will produce pictures of the bones to show the structure of the vertebrae and outline the joints. It also shows the bone alignment and any bony spurs that could irritate nerve roots. In most cases, nerve function is not affected, and the focus of treatment is pain management. Another goal of treatment is to restore movement through the aid of physical therapy.

For severe pain or disability, surgical treatment called vertebroplasty may be considered. This procedure restores the height of the bone and stabilizes the fracture to prevent further collapse. Most compression fractures heal completely within 8 to 12 weeks. An essential part of treatment is to prevent future injury.

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