Key Points about Compression Fractures
- Compression fractures of the spine occur for a number of reasons, including injury that involves excessive force, osteoporosis and cancer that has spread to the spine.
- Specialists diagnose compression fractures using a combination of physical examination and imaging tests.
- Treatment for spinal compression fractures typically includes a mix of pain relievers, physical therapy or surgery.
Compression fractures causesSudden force can cause a spinal compression fracture, such as in a car accident, fall from a height or gunshot wound. Osteoporosis can also cause compression fractures with little to no force.
Compression fractures risk factors
Factors that can increase your risk for developing a spinal compression fracture include:
- Being older
- Having osteoporosis
- Having cancer that has metastasized (spread) to the spine
Compression fractures symptoms
Most people who suffer a compression injury as a result of osteoporosis don’t experience any symptoms. Over time, signs and symptoms of an osteoporosis-related compression fracture can include:
- Back becomes rounded (kyphosis)
- Decrease in height (person becomes shorter)
- Difficulty climbing stairs or walking
- Trouble bending, reaching or lifting
- Trouble standing up straight
- People who suffer a compression fracture due to an injury that causes great force may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Area of the spine that is tender to the touch
- Back pain ranging from mild to severe
- Back pain that radiates to the abdomen
- Back pain that worsens when walking, standing, bending forward or sitting for a long period of time
- Muscle spasms in the back
- Sudden, sharp pain in the back, or pain that comes on gradually
Compression fractures diagnosis
Your specialist may use the following tests to diagnose your compression fracture:
Physical exam. Your specialist will complete a thorough physical exam, including asking questions about your health history.
Imaging tests. Your doctor may order an imaging test – such as an X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – to get a closer look at your spinal and locate fractures.
Compression fractures treatment
Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments for your compression fracture:
Pain relievers. Depending on your level of pain and extent of the fracture, your specialist may recommend you take over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers.
Physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist can help you gain more range of motion, so you can resume normal activities more comfortably.
Surgery. You may need to undergo a surgical procedure called a vertebroplasty, in which your specialist stabilizes compressed vertebrae to help them better support your spine.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a spine specialist for more specialized treatment.