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What is a Spinal Compression Fracture?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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A spinal compression fracture, more commonly simply called a compression fracture, is an injury to the vertebrae caused by trauma, or complications from conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis which may weaken the bones of the spine. Compression fractures are notoriously difficult to treat, although in the early 21st century, a number of surgical techniques to treat the problem were beginning to emerge. The condition may also sometimes be challenging to diagnose, since the symptoms may suggest other types of injuries.

Falls and severe accidents are two common causes of compression fractures, since they put immense stress on the spine. Many patients with compression fractures also suffer from osteoporosis or other diseases which weaken the spine. The symptoms of a compression fracture include back pain, which may not always be localized to the site of the fracture, along with numbness in cases where the compression fracture crushes nerves. In severe cases, the patient may experience incontinence.

X-rays and other medical imaging techniques are used to identify a compression fracture. Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, varying treatment plans may be recommended. The most basic involves resting at home and embarking on a light stretching and exercise program which is designed to strengthen the back while the fracture heals. In other cases, surgery to treat the compression fracture may be recommended, especially if the fracture is pinching nerves or leading to incontinence.

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Many doctors say that the best treatment for a compression fracture is prevention. Eating plentiful supplies of calcium and stretching to exercise and strengthen the back is extremely important. For older people or people with a limited range of motion, gentle yoga and other techniques can be used to improve general muscle tone and strength. People should also try to avoid falls; elderly people may want to install rails and non-slip flooring to assist with this.

Back pain is not always associated with a compression fracture, but seeking medical attention for back pain is an excellent idea. In some cases, a doctor may simply diagnose strain, recommending rest and training in proper movement and lifting techniques to avoid such strain in the future. In other instances, a doctor may decide that a patient is at risk for a compression fracture, in which case more diagnostic tests may be needed to diagnose it. Untreated compression fractures can cause medical complications, so it is important to seek treatment.

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anon67081
Post 3

I am a 48 year old women who has a compression fracture. And i am still in a lot of pain. is this ever going to go away. And will i ever be OK again?

anon15921
Post 2

My mother is 83 years old and suffered a compression fracture of her spine earlier this year. She was in extreme pain and it got to the point where she was becoming an invalid due to the pain. All she wanted to do was stay in bed to relieve the pain. She was admitted to the hospital and the surgeon did a balloon kyphoplasty for the fracture. All pain was gone practically right after the surgery. It worked out well for my Mom but you do need to discuss the risks involved with your doctor.

bookreader
Post 1

My mom is 92 and has 3 compression fractures in her lower back. One is old, two are newer. The doctor has mentioned minimally invasive surgery (perhaps). I'm thinking medications and therapy to begin with. Any suggestions?

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