Spinal Compression Fractures Q & A
You can live with a spinal compression fracture for years before symptoms develop, but when they do, you’ll feel pain, or you’ll notice a “hunchback” deformity. Vascular Health Institute can work with your primary care physician to develop a customized treatment plan to get you back on the road to comfort and health. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, call us or use online scheduling tool.
What is a spinal compression fracture?
A spinal compression fracture occurs when the vertebral body, or center portion of the vertebra, is so weak it collapses. Although compression fractures can occur anywhere in your spine, they typically develop in the middle of the spine, or toward the lower back. The most common type of compression fracture is called a wedge fracture. The vertebral body tends to collapse in the front but not in the back, creating a wedge shape.
What are the symptoms of a spinal compression fracture?
Spinal compression fractures can occur suddenly, causing acute pain. More often, however, they develop gradually, so you can have the fracture without experiencing symptoms for a while.
When symptoms appear, you may experience:
- Back pain
- Worse pain when standing or walking
- Limited ability to move your spine
- Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
What causes a spinal compression fracture?
Although a spinal compression fracture may rarely develop when a tumor or injury weakens the vertebrae, osteoporosis typically causes it. In fact, it’s the most common compression fracture arising from osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis develops as you age because you lose old bone more quickly than new bone replaces it. As a result, your bones, including your vertebrae, become weak and brittle. All adults are at risk for osteoporosis, but bone loss accelerates after women reach menopause.
When you have osteoporosis, you can develop a spinal compression fracture from simple daily activities like lifting a light object or sneezing. By comparison, it takes significant force like a hard fall or car accident to compress vertebrae in patients who don’t have osteoporosis.
What complications develop from a spinal compression fracture?
Compressed vertebrae narrow the spinal canal and place pressure on nerves and blood vessels as they enter and exit the spine. Your nerves may be immediately injured or gradually become irritated and damaged.
Pressure on blood vessels interferes with the blood supply, depriving cells throughout your body of oxygen and nutrients. Prolonged compression may cause blood leakage into tissues and death of tissues due to lack of blood.
How is a spinal compression fracture treated?
Doctors can perform a minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty to repair spinal compression fractures, under conscious sedation. A hollow needle called a trocar is inserted through the skin into the bone using fluoroscopic image guidance. Image-guidance is used to guide the needle to the correct position in your vertebra. A balloon is inflated, to make space to fill with bone cement. Once the cement is in place, the balloon is removed. The procedure typically takes about an hour and can only be performed by physicians who are specially trained, like those at Vascular Health Institute.