What is a Compression Fracture?

A compression fracture is a type of spinal fracture that occurs when a vertebra in the spine collapses or is compressed, usually due to trauma, osteoporosis, or other medical conditions affecting bone health. These fractures most commonly occur in the thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) regions of the spine.

What Causes a Compression Fractures?

  1. Osteoporosis: The most common cause of compression fractures is osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of bone mass and weakening of bone structure, making bones more susceptible to fractures.
  2. Trauma: Compression fractures can result from traumatic events such as falls from significant heights or car accidents.
  3. Cancer: Some cancers, particularly metastatic cancers that spread to the bones, can weaken the vertebrae and lead to compression fractures.
  4. Other Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as multiple myeloma or osteomalacia, can also increase the risk of compression fractures.

What are the Symptoms of a Compression Fracture?

The symptoms of a compression fracture can vary depending on the severity of the fracture and its location. Common symptoms may include:

  1. Sudden onset of back pain: Often described as sharp, severe, or localized pain in the affected area.
  2. Loss of height: Compression fractures can cause a reduction in height, especially in individuals with osteoporosis.
  3. Limited range of motion: Pain and stiffness in the spine may lead to reduced mobility.
  4. Kyphosis: Compression fractures can result in an abnormal forward curvature of the spine (kyphosis), leading to a stooped posture.

What are the Treatment Options for a Compression Fracture?

The treatment of compression fractures depends on several factors, including the cause of the fracture, the severity of the pain, and the overall health of the patient. Conservative management is often the first approach for stable fractures and may include:

  1. Pain Management: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to manage pain and inflammation.
  2. Rest and Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that worsen the pain and allowing time for the fracture to heal.
  3. Back Bracing: Wearing a back brace may provide support and stability during the healing process.
  4. Physical Therapy: Targeted exercises can help strengthen the back muscles and improve posture.

For more severe or unstable fractures or cases where conservative measures are not effective, surgical intervention may be considered. Surgical procedures may involve vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, where bone cement is injected into the fractured vertebra to stabilize it and relieve pain.

It’s important for individuals experiencing persistent back pain or those at risk of compression fractures, such as those with osteoporosis, to seek medical evaluation promptly. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can prevent further complications and improve the overall outcome.