Compression Fractures of the Spine

Category: Back Pain, Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

compression fractureA compression fracture in the spine occurs when a vertebrae breaks. They are intensely painful for most people and require quick medical attention. In this article we will discuss the causes of compression fractures and a few options for treatment.

What Causes a Compression Fracture?

Compression fractures can be caused by blunt trauma to the spine (similar to the way other bones in the body break). Other causes of compression fractures include:

  • Osteoporosis. A condition that causes bones to deteriorate as we age. This is the most common cause.
  • Spinal Tumors that degrade the structure of the spine.

The signs and symptoms of a compression factor can vary greatly depending on the root cause of the fracture. Compression fractures that happen due to trauma are generally accompanied by intense and immediate back pain surrounding the site of the fracture. Many patients describe the pain as “knife-like.” If the fracture is caused by osteoporosis, the symptoms may crop up more gradually over time. The person may experience back pain that increases over the course of several days or weeks, and develop a hunched posture. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Numbness and tingling in the back and legs.
  • Weakness.
  • Loss of bladder control.

Treatment Options

When the compression fracture is the result of osteoporosis, treatment is usually kept non-surgical with pain meds and rest to allow the spine to heal itself. With older patients, undergoing spine surgery is generally not worth the risks associated. If the fracture was caused by trauma or if the patient is in extreme pain for several months after attempting non-surgical methods, surgery may be the best option. A spinal fusion is the preferred procedure for mending a compression fracture. Surgery is also recommended if there is a tumor involved in the compression fracture.

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