Understanding Vertebral Compression Fracture Pain

Vertebral compression fracture refers to a break in any bones – known as vertebrae – of your spinal column. Approximately half of all vertebral fractures tend to occur in your cervical (neck) spine area.

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Causes & Risk Factors

A vertebral compression fracture can result from a traumatic injury or indirect stress due to excessive spinal flexing, extension, rotation, or bending. It can also result from the progression of osteoporosis.

    • Young adult males are at the greatest risk of vertebral injury from automobile accidents, sports injuries, and violence. About 80% of all people with vertebral fractures are male. Approximately 55% of those injured are 16 to 30 years old.
    • A vertebral compression fracture should be suspected in any patient over 50 with an acute onset of back pain. For women with risk factors for osteoporosis, a vertebral fracture should be suspected in any woman over age 45 who have sudden back pain.

Symptoms

The most common vertebral compression fracture symptoms include one or more of a combination of the following:

    • Sudden onset of back pain
    • Standing or walking makes pain worse
    • Back lying makes the pain less intense
  • Height loss
  • Limited spinal mobility
  • Deformity and disability

Some patients with osteoporosis experience multiple vertebral compression fractures. Symptoms of multiple osteoporotic compression fractures can include:

    • Height loss
    • Thoracic kyphosis (dowager’s hump)
    • Hip pain (due to a shortened spine, the bottom of your patient’s rib cage may rub against the top of your hip bones)
    • Bulging abdomen (as the vertebral fractures cause the patient’s spine to shrink in height, abdominal contents are compressed into less vertical space)

Diagnosis

A vertebral compression fracture is not always easy to diagnose. During a physical exam, your pain specialist will ask questions to pinpoint or rule out a vertebral fracture. Also, a neurological examination may be done to evaluate motor and sensory responses. Diagnostic techniques include:

    • A CAT scan to determine if a fractured bone is stable.
    • An MRI to deliver a high level of visual detail of the soft tissues surrounding the fracture. An MRI can also help determine the age of the fracture.
    • A nuclear bone scan can also be used to determine when the fracture occurred. The age of the fracture is sometimes important to help guide treatment options.

Treatment Options

At PMIR Medical Center, we understand that pain is a complex condition that affects the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treatment, customizing the most effective treatment plans for our patients and empowering them to become collaborative partners in their recovery process.

Vertebral compression fracture pain can last as long as three months without treatment. At PMIR Medical Center, we offer a variety of vertebral compression fracture pain management and treatment options, including (but not limited to):

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