A compression fracture of the spine may result in no signs or symptoms, but in other circumstances can result in back pain and discomfort and a stooped over stance. In a compression fracture of the spine, one or more spinal bones (vertebrae) collapse. This short report takes a look at the main reasons why these kinds of fractures occur and delves deeper into the possible symptoms and treatments.
Compression Fracture Of Spine Symptoms And Causes
Chronic onset: Signs and symptoms will not always be observed in a particular person who develops a compression fracture and the evidence of the situation may initially be discovered through an x-ray done for other reasons. In some circumstances signs could develop slowly over time and may involve:
- A gradual onset of back pain
- Loss of height (up to 6 in. over time)
- Stooped over posture, known as “Dowager’s Hump”
Acute onset: In some cases, signs will develop suddenly and cause sudden and serious back pain which remains in one local location of the back. The onset of abrupt back pain due to a compression fracture will typically be felt in the mid to lower part of the back. This pain is identified as “knife-like” and can be disabling and take months of recovery before pain alleviates.
There are may possible causes of compression fractures which include:
- Weakening of the bones owing to osteoporosis (most common cause)
- Weakening of the bones owing to a pathology such as a cancerous tumor.
- Trauma to the spine such as a car collision or fall
Fractures which come about as a result of osteoporosis typically impact the vertebrae of the mid and lower back. These sorts of fracture may develop no symptoms at first, especially at times of rest, but back pain may be aggravated by walking. Numerous spinal fractures may lead to a stooped stance termed a kyphosis. This is seen as a hump-like curvature of the spine, like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Compression Fracture Of Spine Diagnosis And Treatment
A physical exam and spinal x-ray may be required to affirm the diagnosis of compression fractures of the back. Other tests that may be performed include a bone density test to discover the presence of osteoporosis; a CT scan, MRI scan, or bone scan if there are concerns about the existence of a tumor or damage due to high-impact trauma to the spine (i.e. car collision or a fall from a height).
Treatment can depend on the cause of the compression fracture:
In individuals with osteoporosis, the osteoporosis is treated with doctor prescribed drugs and pain is managed with pain drugs and bed rest. Patients may benefit from physical therapy to develop the muscle strength necessary to better support the backbone. Surgical procedure is an uncommon option, but for back pain that can not be controlled with conservative measures, surgical procedure may be considered (i.e. balloon kyphoplasty, vertebroplasty). Fractures due to osteoporosis tend to get less painful with rest and pain medication, but some can result in persistent pain and disability.
If the fracture is brought about by a tumor, treatment will be focused on healing the cancer. The prognosis will rely on the form of tumor involved.
If the fracture is bring about by trauma, rest, pain medicine, and bracing to support and immobilize the area is typically mandated for 6 – 10 weeks. If bone fragments are in the spinal canal, surgery may be necessary to get rid of the fragments. Spinal fusion to fuse the vertebrae together and stabilize the spine may additionally be mandated. Compression fractures due to trauma should normally heal in 8 – 10 weeks with proper care. Recovery time could increase if surgery was involved.