What is a Compression Fracture?
Vertebral compression fractures are a type of bone fracture that typically occurs in the spine. It happens when one of the vertebral bones in the spine collapses or becomes compressed, often due to osteoporosis, trauma, or cancer. The vertebral bone can also become weakened and vulnerable to fracture due to other factors such as prolonged use of steroids, radiation therapy, or genetic disorders.
Symptoms of a Compression Fracture
Symptoms of compression fractures can vary depending on the severity of the injury. At The Morrison Clinic, we have seen that the most common symptoms include:
- Sudden onset of back pain: This is the most common symptom of a compression fracture. The pain may be localized to the affected area or may radiate to other parts of the body.
- Height loss: Compression fractures can cause a decrease in height due to the collapse of the vertebrae.
- Posture changes: Compression fractures can cause a forward curvature of the spine, leading to a hunched or stooped posture.
- Mobility limitations: The pain and changes in posture caused by compression fracture can limit a person’s ability to move, stand, or walk.
- Neurological symptoms: In some cases, compression fractures can compress the nerves that run through the spinal column, causing numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.
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Ways to Avoid Surgery
There are several ways to avoid surgery for spinal fractures. In some cases, injection-based therapies such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty may be your best option to relieve pain and stabilize the affected vertebrae. Dr. Morrison renders both of these compression fracture treatment options on an out-patient basis at our six convenient South Florida locations.
Other options include pain management with over the counter or prescription medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications such as weight-bearing exercises and a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
Compression Fracture Treatment
When considering compression fracture treatment options, Dr. Morrison will evaluate the fractured vertebrae to determine the safest and most effective approach. Specifically, they will conduct a bone density test or Dual-energy X-Ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan). This noninvasive imaging combines views from two cameras delivering low radiation levels to determine bone density.
Bone density tests are used in compression fractures treatment to confirm low density, diagnose osteoporosis, and evaluate your risk for future spinal fractures. Based on your results, Dr. Morrison may recommend nonsurgical treatments, including pain medication, back bracing, or bone density medications.
If those approaches cannot manage your compression fracture symptoms or, depending on fracture severity, Dr. Morrison may recommend surgical intervention. Surgical methods often include injecting bone cement into the spaces of the fractured vertebrae. Using bone cement helps improve stability and equally distribute the force applied to the fractured vertebrae.
Whether surgical or nonsurgical, Dr. Morrison and his team can recommend the treatment options that best fit your specific condition and needs.
The prognosis for a compression fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the underlying cause. In most cases, compression fractures heal on their own over time. However, this can take several months for the pain to subside and the bone to fully heal.
In patients with osteoporosis, compression fractures may be a sign of more widespread bone loss, which can increase the risk of future fractures. Therefore, it is important to address the underlying cause of the compression fracture and take steps to prevent further bone loss.
The recovery time for compression fractures can vary depending on the severity of the injury, the age and overall health of the individual.
For minor compression fractures, recovery can take several weeks to a few months. During this time, pain management techniques such as over-the-counter or prescription medications, rest, and physical therapy may be recommended. As the bone heals, mobility may be gradually restored through gentle exercise and physical therapy.
Overall, the prognosis for compression fractures is generally good with appropriate treatment and management. Most people are able to return to their normal activities with time and the appropriate interventions.
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