A spinal compression fracture happens when the bones within one or more vertebrae of the spine collapse. If you or a loved one are dealing with a spinal compression fracture, it’s likely you have some questions and concerns.
It can be hard to know how much a spinal compression fracture could impact your health both now and in the future. Having a full understanding of the causes, symptoms and seriousness can help you determine the best course of treatment and when it’s time to seek medical support.
What Causes Spinal Compression Fractures?
The most common cause of a spinal compression fracture is pressure on a weakened vertebra. This pressure can lead to minor fractures, which can build up over time and eventually lead to the collapse of the vertebra – also known as a compression fracture. This can sometimes happen with age, as your vertebrae wear down over time.
Other common causes of spinal compression fractures include trauma-related injuries (for instance, a car accident), health conditions and osteoporosis.
How Serious Is a Spinal Compression Fracture?
Not every person with a spinal compression fracture has the same symptoms, and some may have none at all. If you have a spinal compression fracture, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Back pain (which varies in severity, case by case)
- Pain when standing or walking
- Limited spinal mobility
- Change in posture
- Loss of height
- Numbness and tingling
- Difficulty walking
With or without these symptoms, how serious is this type of fracture? In most cases, if properly treated, this injury is manageable. However, if left alone, it can lead to more serious issues. An untreated spinal compression fracture could lead to chronic back pain, further collapse of the vertebra, kyphosis and more. If you experience back pain along with more serious symptoms, such as incontinence, seek immediate medical attention.
Regardless of seriousness and stability, all spinal compression fractures are important to seek treatment for. Consult with a spinal specialist to discuss individualized treatments and solutions.
What Is the Treatment for a Spinal Compression Fracture?
Spinal compression fractures are common – approximately 1.5 million people get one every year. Because this injury is relatively common, there are a few treatment options available that can help you find relief. Your treatment plan will vary depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing and your unique health status. Some common nonsurgical treatments include:
- Short-term lifestyle changes, such as a reduction in physical activity or bed rest
- A prescription back brace, which reduces motion and provides external spinal support
- Over-the-counter medications for pain management and/or bone strength
These treatments are not right for everyone and should only be done under the supervision of your doctor. If done without medical supervision, it’s possible that your condition could worsen. With support from your doctor and specialized treatment, healing a spinal compression fracture usually takes two to three months depending on severity.
If the nonsurgical treatment methods don’t work, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery. The most common surgical procedures for this condition are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. At Citrus Spine Institute, we perform these procedures in our office, as outpatient procedures – meaning you’ll go home on the same day.
How To Prevent Spinal Compression Fractures
Though spinal compression fractures can happen to anyone, there are some risk factors that you may want to be aware of.
- Osteoporosis, which can make bones more brittle and weak
- Metastatic tumors, which may put pressure on the vertebrae
- Traumatic injuries from sports, a car accident or a hard fall, which may lead to degenerative spinal changes
It’s important to take the risk of spinal compression fractures seriously. Luckily, there are many ways to strengthen your bones and body to help reduce the risk of a fracture. Depending on your risk factors and overall health status, your doctor may recommend some of the following prevention methods:
- Regular exercise, which includes activities like weight-bearing aerobics and strength training
- Avoiding smoking
- Fall prevention through flexibility and balance exercises and modification to your environment
- Taking calcium supplements, vitamin D or other medications suggested by your doctor
What Are the Next Steps?
If you have been diagnosed with a spinal compression fracture, or suspect you may have one, it’s important to promptly seek treatment. A spinal specialist can help you find the best treatment options to help you find relief.
At Citrus Spine Institute, we will work with you to create a treatment plan tailored to your unique condition and medical history. Our providers are experts in spinal health and are dedicated to helping you receive minimally-invasive care in a comfortable environment.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our office in Crystal River.