What Is a Vertebral Compression Fracture?
Vertebral Compression Fracture Causes
How do vertebrae crack? Most likely, the cause of the break is osteoporosis. This condition is often seen with age and is caused when bones soften. A compression fracture of this sort may cause sudden pain, or it may cause nagging, long-term pain felt after attempting minor movements, like bending and lifting. Vertebral compression fractures do not, therefore, present in one consistent manner. They can cause no pain. Or they can cause severe discomfort from something as insignificant as sitting.These cracked vertebrae are most common in the upper, or thoracic, back – down to the lower, or lumbar, back. While pain normally resolves within a month, severe pain or pain that lasts longer than four weeks is an indication of the need for further medical care. In this circumstance, a physician will likely conduct a comprehensive history, exam, and possibly diagnostic imaging. Key indicators are kyphosis – or having a humpback – and loss of height with time. A simple X-ray can see if vertebrae are compressed or broken, though a bone scan for osteoporosis may also be in order.
Treatment for vertebral compression fractures spans the same wide range as the pain associated. Conservative care may include medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. A calcium-rich diet will likely be recommended.
The two most common, and minimally invasive, surgical procedures for this condition are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. During a percutaneous vertebroplasty, cement is pushed into the fractured bone to provide more support and allow for healing. Another surgical option is a balloon kyphoplasty when a small balloon is injected into the injured vertebrae and slowly inflated to the original size. While the surgeries are safe and will often help with recovery, there are always risks, too. If the fracture was caused from osteoporosis, the softening of the bones must also be treated to protect the rest of the skeletal frame.
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