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What is a Compression Fracture?

Aug 1, 2018

Compression fractures are very common and can come from a number of different causes.  Sometimes people have underlying weakness in the bone, either from cancer or just poor bone density that predisposes them to a compression fracture with something as simple as sitting down too hard or a small fall. The main cause of compression fractures is the loss of bone mass, which is often associated with aging. Patients will often have a compression fracture in their upper back, but this type of fracture can occur anywhere on the spine.   

Compression fractures can occur three ways:  

  • a wedge compression,
  • a crush fracture.  
  • a burst fracture.  

 

A wedge compression fracture is the most common and occurs when the bone in the front of your spine collapses, while a crush fracture is when the entire bone, from front to back, breaks. A burst fracture is often noted by the loss of height in a patient as the fracture creates a loss of height in the vertebrae.  

 

What are the symptoms of a compression fracture? 

The biggest symptom is pain in the back or the affected bone, but patients may also be able to tell by a loss of height or a hunched back. Most patients will be well aware of their compression fracture, especially if they recently fell or lifted a heavy object, and a simple trip to your spine doctor will confirm that.  

If left untreated, patients may suffer from severe, chronic pain, deformities and the loss of muscle. In small instances, a compression fracture can also lead to nerve damage, although this is rare.  

 

How do you treat a compression fracture? 

Generally, the mainstay of treatment, if you don’t have neurologic symptoms, is medications and bracing. If those fail, there are different things a spine surgeon can do. One option is putting glue into the vertebral body to help with the pain. Generally, the overall outcome of people that get the glue or the kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty treatment versus bracing is pretty similar at three months, but the difference is those people sometimes get up and move quicker.  Generally, a doctor will start those patients with conservative therapy like bracing and oral medications and physical therapy, and then over a course of about three to six months, that pain will subside, and the fracture will heal. If there’s any progressive deformity or neurologic symptoms, then a doctor will look for a surgical approach. 

 

Who is at risk of a compression fracture? 

Generally, it is the older population who is more at risk for compression fractures. This is because the main cause of a compression fracture is brittle bones that age over time. In addition to the older generations, these people are also at a higher risk. 

  • Those with a below average BMI 
  • Women who experience early menopause 
  • Smokers 
  • Patients who suffer from osteoporosis 
  • Cancer patients who have seen the cancer spread to their bones 

If you feel you have suffered a compression fracture or feel you may be at risk, contact Back Pain Centers today. Call 844-201-1308 today, and a Patient Navigator will help you find the help that you need. 

 



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