Known as a vertebral compression fracture, this type of spinal fracture is the leading cause of osteoporosis. Here we explore the symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and more. 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.
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.
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:
- 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).
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 great visual details of soft tissues surrounding the fracture and age determining.
- A nuclear bone scan can determine when the fracture occurred and therefore help guide 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. Compression fracture-related 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):