One possible cause of your lingering pain is a compression fracture. It’s usually caused by the age-related loss of bone density that weakens the spine and supporting joints or osteoporosis, a condition that increases susceptibility to fractures. A compression fracture is so-named because it can cause a vertebral bone to lose about 15-20 percent of its height.
Types of Compression Fracture
The most common type of compression fracture is a wedge fracture, which usually collapses the front of a vertebra and leaves the back of it intact. Additional compression fractures include:
- Crush fracture: The entire bone breaks when this type of fracture occurs rather than just the front of it.
- Burst fracture: Height is lost in both the front and back of a vertebra, often resulting in instability and deformity.
Signs of a Compression Fracture
Acute, or sharp, pain is often the first sign that you may have a compression fracture. If it goes untreated or undetected, the pain may reach a point where it becomes chronic, or persistent. Additional symptoms may include:
- Noticeable deformity of the spine
- Loss of height from the compression
- Loss of muscle strength*
*This is often due to increased lack of activity to avoid pain.
Diagnosing Compression Fractures
Roughly two-thirds of compression fractures affecting the spine aren’t diagnosed or treated since back pain is often attributed to muscle strain or aging. An X-ray can confirm the presence of suspected fracture.
Treating Compression Fractures
Compression fractures rarely result in nerve or spinal cord damage since the front of the vertebral column is usually affected. Nonsurgical treatments for back pain typically involve the use of medication, modification of activities, and bracing. If the stability or deformity is significant, surgery may be recommended to fill the affected area with a special type of cement (vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty).
Affecting around 700,000 people annually in the United States alone, compression fractures somewhere along the spine are fairly common. It’s estimated that a quarter of all post-menopausal women in the U.S. have experienced a compression fracture. Eating more vitamin-rich foods and getting regular exercise to strengthen supporting back muscles can help reduce the risk of experiencing a fracture.
For more information, reach out to Los Angeles spine surgery center, The Spine Institute. Call (310) 828-7757 and speak with a representative who can schedule your in-person consultation.