FAQ’s on Vertebral Compression Fracture
What is a vertebral compression fracture?
A vertebral compression fracture arises when the bones in the spine become broken or fractured due to trauma. Certain conditions, such as osteoporosis, may increase the likelihood of developing a vertebral compression fracture.
The bones that are impacted by this condition are commonly found in the back. The condition generally affects women more than men and occurs more often in women over the age of 50 years old (Schaufele, et al., AANS, 2009).
What are the symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture?
An individual who has vertebral compression fracture presents a broken or fractured bone (or bones) within the spine. Normally occurring in the back region, this condition can present pain that radiates throughout the back and neck. The most common symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture include:
- Pain – The pain tends to occur more in the lower back than any other place along the spine, however some patients report pain radiating in between the shoulder blades and into the cervical spine (neck region). It really depends on where the fracture occurs. If it\’s a thoracic area fracture the pain may radiate around the front of the rib cage. Pain may be experienced around the hips, abdomen or thigh and upper leg area in lower lumbar fractures. Sciatic pain that extends from the low back and into the back of the leg is also seen in patients with vertebral compression fracture.
- Numbness and tingling – When there is compression on the nerves at the site of the break it could result in a numbing and tingling sensation. There may also be an area along the spine that feels weak and due the compressed nerves the entire back may feel weak at times.
- Muscle Aching and Spasms – A person with a vertebral compression fracture may experience muscle aching and spasms. As a result of the body attempting to stabilize the fracture, the spasms may occur daily during the initial time frame after the fracture occurs.
What are the common causes of vertebral compression fracture?
Statistically speaking, white and Asian women over the age of 50 years old are the most common population affected by vertebral compression fractures. It is this group that has a higher percentage of developing osteoporosis, which is one of the leading risk factors of the condition. While anyone is susceptible to developing osteoporosis, which leads to vertebral compression fracture, there are risk factors that may contribute to the disease. These include:
- The race of the individual (Caucasian and Asian are at greater risk)
- Age of the person (women over the age of 50 are at greater risk and the likelihood of developing osteoporosis increases dramatically as a person ages)
- The weight of a person (thinner women are more at risk than those who are of healthy weight or slightly overweight)
- Those who smoke (smoking causes a loss of bone thickness, contributing to the development of osteoporosis)
- Women who enter early menopause (those who go through menopause prior to the age of 50 are at greater risk)
What are the treatment options of vertebral compression fracture?
Self-care for a vertebral compression fracture may include rest, pain relief medications and the application of ice to the area that has been injured. Your San Diego pain management doctor may recommend a stretching and exercise program that works to strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured area. Heat may also be applied alternatively to the ice application.
Pain may be persistent even while conducting home treatment and medical attention may be required. Your pain doctor in San Diego may recommend the wearing of a back brace.
If the patient experiences severe pain that is not reduced through conservative measures, an outpatient surgery may be indicated known as a vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. The surgery is designed to prevent the spine from pushing on the spine. In some cases surgery is used to stabilize the vertebra that are positioned next to the site of fracture.
The vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty procedure is over 90% effective in relieving pain from the vertebral compression fracture. It is low risk, outpatient and the pain relief is often immediate.
With an estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis the likelihood of developing a vertebral compression fracture is high (Schaufele et al., AANS, 2009). This kind of fracture is the most common in those with low bone mass or osteoporosis. Although this condition is most common in women, it can occur in aging men with decreasing bone mass.
Complications that involve poor pain relief are possible with or without surgery. Also, for those who do not opt for surgical procedures or are not candidates for surgery, pain management in San Diego is needed for the patient to be able to carry out daily activities and live a quality life. See your San Diego pain management clinic doctor right away if you experience a sudden onset of pain and limited spinal mobility.
If you are experiencing significant mid or low back pain from a suspected compression fracture, treatment is available. Let the California Pain Network help connect you with the best pain management doctors in San Diego at (619) 500-1573 today!