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Spinal compression fractures can be better explained by saying that these are broken vertebrae or the damaged bones of the spine. There are a few causes that can be attributed to compression fractures of the back and while this illness may not be easily diagnosed, many patients realize its existence only when they have symptoms that are common to those who have this kind of illness. When this happens, it’s about time to go to the doctor for a consultation.
Though there is no single cause of compression fractures, the most common cause would be a severe pressure placed on the bone or vertebra. However, there are a few causes of spinal compression fractures that result in severe pain in your back, legs and arms. The following are a few of the causes of spinal compression fracture which you need to know so that you can decide to go to a physician for consultation:
This is a disease of the bone wherein the bone density is reduced. It often occurs in women who have completed menopause. However, elderly men and other individuals who regularly take steroid medication for a long time may be also at risk for osteoporosis.
Compression fractures happen due to too much pressure that can cause the bones to break. In the case of an osteoporosis, the bones’ density is lower than when the person was younger. Naturally, when there is pressure on the weak bones, they will tend to break even if the pressure is not really that heavy.
When one has osteoporosis, the bones become thinner and too weak to bear normal pressure. A normal activity can cause the bones to collapse and might lead to a spinal compression fracture.
The most common type of osteoporosis fractures is the spinal compression fractures and forty percent of all women will experience having this disease by the time they are aged 80. The fractures often heal on their own and the pain is gone. However, there are times that the pain persists if the damaged bone fails to heal sufficiently. Also, the vertebral fractures can greatly affect the shape and strength of the spine.
A person who has osteoporosis is vulnerable to a ‘crush fracture’ or commonly called, spinal compression fracture. Those who are experiencing severe cases of osteoporosis such as elderly women, experience fracture even if they just perform a simple actions such as bending forward. As the vertebral fracture continues, it causes loss of height and results in a humped back .
This refers to a severe physical injury causing a vertebra to break. This might be due to a forceful jump or a fall from a tall height and the person lands on his or her feet or buttocks. It may also occur as a result of a car accident as well as any situation that stresses the spine beyond what it can take.
Trauma specifically to the spinal vertebrae can result in minor or severe compression fractures.
Pathologic fracture and other illnesses
While trauma is caused by a severe physical injury, pathologic fracture is caused by a preexisting disease at the fracture site in the vertebra such as a metastastic disease that spreads cancer cells from one area to the other areas of the body. Cancer easily spreads on the bones of the spine and a little compression fracture might be an indication of an unrecognized cancer that has spread to the spine. The cancer cells slowly destroy the vertebra by weakening the bone until it collapses.
Another disease that may cause pathologic fracture is the Paget’s disease of bone. Those with Paget’s disease often complain of bone pain that becomes worse during periods of rest but can be relieved by movement. Pathological fracture is one symptoms of the complications of Paget’s disease.
During the laboratory tests and physical examinations, your doctor may also diagnose tumor as responsible for a compression fracture. This illness may show up in the diagnostic imaging tests the same way that traumatic injuries can.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
Compression fractures may occur so sudden and may start with a severe back pain that starts in the middle or lower spine. Sometimes it can be felt either in front of the spine or on the sides. Some patients describe the pain as “knife-like” and the discomfort is disabling. In some cases, it takes weeks or months to disappear.
Those with osteoporosis don’t experience the warning signs at first. They often learn about it when x-rays of the spine are done on them due to other reasons. Over time, they slowly realize the following symptoms:
- Start of back pain especially when walking but disappears when resting.
- Reduction of height, even as much as 6 inches.
- Deterioration of posture such as one slowly developing a stooped-over posture or a dowager’s hump. A hunched over posture due to the pressure on the spinal cord may cause tingling, weakness, numbness, difficulty walking or lack of control of the bowel or bladder.
When you experience these warning signs, it is about to set an appointment with a physician for a consultation.
Diagnosis: Exams, Lab Tests
Once you consult a doctor, the nurse or assistant asks you of your complete medical history after taking your height, weight and other related measurements as required. In some cases, you may be asked to fill in a form with questions related to your illness.
When it is time to see your doctor, the first thing that a physician gives you is a physical examination so that he or she can rule out possible causes of pain by trying to check the specific areas that experiences the pain. When there is a suspicion of a compression fracture, the doctor may test for point tenderness near the concerned vertebrae. This helps him narrow down the cause of your pain and diagnose your issue properly.
After the physical examination, you may be asked to undergo a few laboratory tests. Among the medical equipment used for this purpose are the CT scan, X-ray, MRI, or a bone density test to determine if you have osteoporosis. The doctor may also advise other types of examinations to arrive to the most accurate diagnosis for your illness. Only then can he provide the best treatment for you.
Treatment of Spinal Compression Fractures
If your illness is not that complicated, you may be advised for a self-care at home. You can rest and take pain relief medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen. You can apply ice to the injured area during the first week . Afterwards, you can alternate ice with heat or warm compress, whichever helps to make you feel better. The doctor may also suggest a home stretching and strengthening program to those who have osteoporosis.
In more complicated cases, you may be asked to wear back brace or be admitted to the hospital depending on the severity of the pain or weakness that results in an inability to control your urine or stool.
If the spine is pressing on the spinal cord, a surgery may be required. The purpose is to stabilize the vertebra that is adjacent to the bone area with fracture.
Other therapies include procedures such as percutaneous vertebroplasty, a new process whereby a “biomaterial” compound is injected into the vertebra that has the osteoporotic fracture. This hardens the vertebra to stabilize it. This procedure helps relieve chronic pain.
As a follow-up, patients are advised to follow the physician’s instructions accurately and ensure that they understand them totally. Take the prescribed medications, apply ice or heat at the right time. Avoid strenuous activities until the doctor says so. Pay your doctor a regular visit until you are completely healed.
While conventional medicine may help your doctor diagnose the exact illness you have, it may also be worthy to try a chiropractor and see how it goes. Chiropractic has been famous for a long time and many patients have testified how effective it is in healing their back pain and in treating spinal compression fractures. In fact, many countries have already legalized chiropractic medicine and it has been widely accepted throughout the world.
If you are in Jacksonville, FL, try a free consultation at Meridian Integrative Wellness and feel better with their chiropractic and massage therapy. Give us a call to set up an appointment today.