Vertebral compression fractures occur when the normal vertebral body of the spine is squeezed or compressed. The bone collapses when too much pressure is placed on the vertebrae, resulting in pain, limited mobility, loss of height, and spinal deformities. In severe compression fractures the vertebral body is pushed into the spinal canal which will apply pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
Vertebral fractures result from weakened spine caused by osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis, tumor and trauma. Osteogenesis imperfecta is a hereditary disease resulting in bone fragility. It is an autosomal dominant disorder of connective tissue that is characterized by easily fractured bones.
You may experience severe pain in the back which worsens on standing or walking and decreases when resting. Other symptoms include weakness and numbness in the affected areas, disability, limited spinal mobility and loss of overall height. The symptoms which indicate multiple fractures in the spine are hunch back, bulging stomach, shortness of breath, hip fracture and gastrointestinal problems.
Your doctor may require diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI scan and bone scan which help to determine and confirm the fracture.
The treatment for vertebral compression fractures aims at reducing the pain, stabilizing and repairing the fracture. The non-surgical measures include medications, back braces, bed rest and certain exercises.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to relieve bone, muscle and nerve pain. A back brace may be suggested to support the back and immobilize the movements.
Surgery may be needed if the pain still persists despite non-surgical treatment. The two minimally invasive surgical procedures for treating vertebral compression fractures are:
- Kyphoplasty : In this procedure a deflated balloon called as bone tamp is injected into the spine. The balloon is inflated until it expands to a desired height. The created space is then filled with orthopedic cement called polymethylmethacrylate. This procedure helps to restore the height of the vertebrae and reduces the deformity.
- Vertebroplasty : This technique involves injecting a cement material called polymethylmethacrylate into the collapsed vertebra. The injected cement hardens quickly, stabilizing the fracture, relieves pressure and prevents further collapse.
The following measures may be practiced to decrease the risk of developing vertebral fractures:
- Learn some good techniques for standing, sitting, lifting and housework activities.
- Avoid lifting heavy things, jumping, diving, horse riding, sliding and amusement rides.
- Ensure that you wear seat belts in cars.
- Exercise regularly. Swimming provides movement of joints without being stressed and is also good for the back muscles.