Compression fractures of the spine, also known as vertebral compression fracture (VCF), are the most common fracture affecting the vertebral area. This happens when the main section of the spine, called the vertebra, loses its strength and starts to collapse. Most patients who exhibit this condition find the breakages in the front part of the vertebra.
The most common cause of vertebral column fracture is osteoporosis (a condition where the bones lose their mass and become thin and brittle). About 750,000 cases of compression fractures happen annually to patients with osteoporosis and primarily affect older women, particularly those who are past menopause.
With the weakening of the bones, a simple sudden movement like standing up or bending can trigger a compression fracture. In some cases, even a sneeze or a cough can result in this condition.
A spinal compression fracture may include one or more of the following symptoms:
Late symptoms include:
In most cases, diagnosis is made through history taking and physical examination. Imaging procedures help confirm the compression fracture and rule out any other possible condition.
Produces an image of the vertebra showing the structure of the vertebrae and the outline of the joints pointing out the problem. This also helps to show the bone alignment and view any bony spurs that may irritate the nerve as well as check for degenerative discs.
An imaging procedure that also provides a clear-cut view of the vertebrae, including the spinal canal, its contents, and the structures around it. This technique is ideal for visualizing bone details, including narrowing.
An imaging technique that is more comprehensive and features a 3D image of the bones and the structures surrounding them.
This test is used to establish the bone mineral density and see if osteoporosis exists
The treatment plan for compression fractures of the spine depends on its severity and the associated symptoms experienced by the patient. Doctors may recommend one or more of the following:
Most cases of spinal compression fracture heal on their own without medical intervention. However, physicians may recommend a few days up to three months of rest for non-complicated fractures.
If the doctors decide to take non-invasive methods, they may recommend supporting the back while healing. This can keep the bones from being moved to optimize the healing pace of the bones.
Since spinal fracture usually resolves on its own and most of the cases are mild, some patients will not require extensive treatment. Remember to see a doctor for evaluation of the back pain in case of the following:
Vertebral column fractures are mostly mild and heal on their own. However, for those that may require physical therapy or conservative treatment, Maplewood Sauk Prairie is dedicated to caring for patients.