Osteoporotic compression fractures are a type of vertebral compression fracture that is caused by bone loss and skeletal degradation as we age. With the appropriate treatment, you can help manage the pain from your fracture and may even undergo surgery. If you or someone close to you suffers one of these fractures, you can better understand the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options.
What is an Osteoporotic Compression Fracture?
Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken, which increases their susceptibility to fractures. With osteoporosis, bone mass decreases and bone tissue begins to deteriorate. As bones become less dense and brittle, they’re more prone to breaking than normal bones are even under normal pressure.
A compression fracture is a type of vertebral fracture that occurs when the bones in the spine collapse. It can also result from a fall or another traumatic event that applies significant force to the spine. In people with low bone density, even a simple action such as bending over to pick up something can cause a compression fracture.
Causes of Osteoporotic Compression Fracture
The loss of bone mass can occur in anyone as they grow older, but women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men; this is due to hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause. While it’s normal for people to lose some bone density as they age, significant loss can lead to the development of osteoporosis.
Other factors that may contribute to developing an osteoporotic compression fracture include previous fractures related to the condition, smoking, or excess alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of Osteoporotic Compression Fracture
An osteoporotic compression fracture may not present any symptoms at first. Your healthcare provider could discover them through an X-ray. A compression fracture may show up with the following symptoms:
- Pain in the back, especially when standing
- Limited range of motion in the spine, making it difficult for you to bend or twist
- Loss of height
- Kyphosis: the front vertebrae lose height, but not on the rear. This can lead to a forward stooping posture over time as a result of these fractures.
- Sensations of numbness, tingling, or both
- Weakness in muscles
- Difficulty walking
- Bowel or bladder issues due to nerve damage
There is a possibility of suffering intense, incapacitating back pain if a fracture occurs suddenly.
What are the Possible Complications of a Compression Fracture?
The following complications can result from compression fractures:
- Chronic pain
- Spinal and nerve damage
- Bones that do not heal after therapy, possibly causing vertebral injury.
- Reduced mobility in the legs causing blood clots
- Development of a humpback or dowager’s hump affecting the chest such as the heart, lungs, and digestive organs, and can be painful.
How is a Compression Fracture Diagnosed?
During the consultation, a health professional will ask you questions regarding your medical history and recent injuries. A physical examination will also be conducted. The doctor will examine you in order to assess whether or not there is a forward curvature in your upper spine. You may also end up having X-rays or CT scans of your spine taken by a healthcare professional.
Your doctor may recommend a bone density scan if he or she suspects you have osteoporosis. The dual-energy X-ray absorptiometer (DEXA) is a method of X-ray imaging that uses X-rays at two different energies. Tests like these determine whether the fracture is caused by osteoporosis.
Treatment Options for Osteoporotic Compression Fracture
If the fracture is a result of osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe bone-strengthening medication to treat the condition. Painkillers can be prescribed to alleviate the pain associated with osteoporotic compression fractures.
You may need to rest for a while to let the bones heal and wear a back brace. Physical therapy and regular exercise can help improve your strength and balance after a fracture.
If other treatments do not work, a variety of surgical treatments can treat your fracture. Only a qualified spinal surgeon can determine if you are a good candidate for surgical intervention. Possible treatments include:
Your surgeon injects a quick-setting cement into your cracked vertebra while using an X-ray as a guide. The cement relieves discomfort and supports the damaged vertebrae.
Small balloons are used to expand the crack before the cement is injected, so the vertebra can grow taller. The cement fills the void left by deflated balloons.
In addition to medical treatments, there are several lifestyle changes you should make in order to prevent further compression fractures. These include:
- Minimize fall risks by clearing clutter from your home and installing handrails along stairways
- Exercise regularly to improve your strength and balance
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones
Reduce the Risk of Osteoporotic Compression Fractures.
Your physician will recommend a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs depending on the severity of your fracture. Physical therapy, pain medication, and rest are all treatments. By seeking treatment for your osteoporotic compression fractures, you can make a considerable difference in how you live your life.