Vertebral compression fractures are small cracks in the bones of the spine that surround the spinal cord. These fractures in the vertebrae can cause them to shorten in height, thus putting pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This may also result in the reduction in the flow of blood and oxygen to the spinal cord.

The doctors at Apex Pain Specialists are highly trained in procedures to alleviate pain from Vertebral compression fractures. Keep reading below to learn about potential treatment options for your pain.

Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What Causes vertebral compression fractures?

Vertebrae can be fractured through accidents, coughing, slipping, falling or otherwise straining. Other common triggers include bending, lifting and twisting. In some instances, pressure from tumors near the spine can cause compression fractures, while for others, a common cause of the development of vertebral compression fractures is osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle and it is a contributing factor to many vertebral compression fractures. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass that commonly occurs as people age. Particularly, women over age 50 are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Although women are at a higher risk for developing compression fractures and osteoporosis both conditions are also seen in men. Also, those with a history of compression fractures have a higher risk of experiencing additional compression fractures.

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What do Vertebral Compression Fracture Feel Like?

One of the most common symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture is back pain; however, some people with vertebral compression fractures do not experience pain due to the gradual progression of their fractures. For those that do experience pain, it may begin suddenly during normal activities of daily living where straining is present, or the pain may increase gradually over time. The type of pain associated with vertebral compression fractures often gets worse while standing or walking, and often the pain is alleviated by lying down.

Those with a vertebral compression fracture may also experience limited range of motion within their spine often noticed when attempting to bend and twist their bodies. A curved posture may be noticed as the result of vertebral compression fractures, as seen in those who stoop. This curvature is due to the uneven fracturing of the bone, more often located in the front of the vertebrae. Therefore, overall height loss is also a possible symptom of compression fractures of the spine. Other symptoms of a compression fracture may include numbness, tingling, weakness, and issues with bowel or bladder control due to nerve damage.

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Common Treatment

The course of treatment for vertebral compression fractures depends on many factors. For instance, if osteoporosis is a contributing factor in the fracture it should be treated. For example, calcium, vitamin D and other bone-strengthening medications may be recommended.

Additional treatment options include, physical therapy and exercises that help strengthen bones and encourage flexibility in the muscles of the back to prevent future vertebral compression fractures from developing. Other recommendations may include pain medication, a back brace, bed rest or limiting certain activities to allow time for the vertebrae to heal.

Pain Management Procedures

In some cases, surgical intervention such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty may be necessary. Vertebroplasty is performed by injecting a type of cement into the fractured vertebrae using x-ray technology as a guide. The cement is added to make the vertebrae stronger. Pain reduction is usually seen with this procedure. While similar to vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty differs in that prior to adding the cement the fractured area may first be expanded by a small balloon to make the vertebrae taller.

Other surgeries and treatments may be needed if the compression fracture is the result of a malignant tumor or an injury. In cases where cancerous tumors caused the fracture radiation therapy and surgery may be recommended. Whereas, in instances where the fracture is the result of an accident or other injury, surgery to fuse the vertebrae may be necessary to support the spine.

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