Compression fractures are common, affecting about a million individuals in the United States annually. It is commonly prevalent in older adults, but younger patients may also sustain this injury.
As common as it may be, you should not take a compression fracture lightly, because it can lower your quality of life. It’s vital to learn about its causes and symptoms, so you can be careful and know when you need to see a doctor for treatment.
What Causes Compression Fractures?
A compression fracture occurs when one or more of your vertebrae — the bones that make up your spine — break. The condition affects the frontal, round part of the vertebra, often resulting in a hunched back. It also usually occurs in the spine’s middle to lower-middle part, called the thoracic area. The thoracic spine spans the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs.
Here are the most common causes of compression fractures.
The leading cause of compression fractures is osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes porous bones. The inside of healthy bones resembles a sponge, which has small holes. Osteoporosis causes your bone density to decrease significantly, making the ‘spongy holes’ larger and greater in number. This causes the bones to become weaker, more brittle, and more susceptible to fractures.
Osteoporosis usually develops undetected, leading to an increased risk of sustaining vertebral fractures. Women are also far more likely to get the disease than men, making them more prone to compression fractures. If your osteoporosis is severe, you may fracture your vertebrae through simple tasks like coughing or sneezing.
Compression fractures are more common in older adults, but young patients can get them, too. Car accidents or serious falls can cause trauma to your spine and result in damage to your vertebrae. Sometimes, athletes develop the condition over time with frequent falls and forceful contact.
Cancer cells can spread from their original location to other areas of the body in a process called metastasis. When cancer travels to the spine, it can weaken your vertebrae and increase your risk of sustaining compression fractures.
Your body reabsorbs old bone cells and creates new ones, and your bones stay healthy as long as your body keeps this balance. However, this process slows down over time. Aging causes degenerative changes to the bones, leading to brittleness and decreased bone density development and strength.
This leaves older adults susceptible to compression fractures, because their bones aren’t as strong as they used to be. Menopause also speeds up bone loss, making women vulnerable to vertebral damage.
What Are the Symptoms of a Compression Fracture?
Some patients develop a compression fracture with no symptoms at all. However, for those who have symptoms, they can range from mild to severe. Examples include:
- Decreased height, especially due to a hunched posture
- Back pain that may be sudden or persistent
- Back pain that worsens with movement
- Decreased flexibility and mobility due to pain
- Numbness and tingling caused by nerve damage, if the fracture impacted a nerve
- Difficulty controlling bladder and bowel movements for severe compression fractures
Your doctor may perform diagnostic tests and an examination to confirm if your symptoms are due to a compression fracture. They may conduct a physical exam to check your source of pain, posture, and spine alignment. In addition, they may recommend imaging tests like X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to spot fractures. They may also recommend a bone density test to learn if you have osteoporosis.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
You should see your doctor if you have sudden back pain. You should also seek immediate medical assistance if you:
- Have pain that persists and doesn’t go away after a few days
- Experience crippling back pain that disrupts your daily life
- Observe serious symptoms like difficulty controlling bladder and bowel movements
- Have osteoporosis or cancer
- Are age 65 or older
Your doctor can help determine if your symptoms point to a compression fracture or another injury. After receiving your diagnosis, your provider can help you decide on a treatment plan that best fits your needs. There are many conservative treatment options available, like adequate rest, pain medications, braces, and physical therapy. If your condition calls for it, your doctor may recommend minimally invasive procedures like kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.
Treatment for Compression Fracture in Melbourne, FL
Compression fractures are common in the United States, tallying up to about a million cases yearly. The injury usually affects the older population, but young people can also develop it. Commonly caused by osteoporosis, trauma, aging, or the spread of cancer, it can lead to a hunched-over posture and crippling and persistent back pain. Don’t hesitate to seek a doctor to help you with the pain and improve your quality of life.
If you’re looking for treatment for a compression fracture in Melbourne, FL, look no further than Central Florida Spine & Pain. Dr. Nicholas Giordano is a board-certified interventional pain management physician who can give you the comprehensive care you deserve.
To learn more about our services, you may call our friendly staff at (321) 802-5021. If you want to book a consultation, you may use our secure online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!