Often associated with nutritional deficiencies and a loss of bone mass that occurs with age, osteoporosis results in weak and brittle bones that are more susceptible to injury. If osteoporosis affects your spine, you’re at an increased risk of experiencing vertebral compression fractures. As the condition progresses, there may come a time when you’ll have to decide if surgery is the best option for strengthening your spine.
Whether or not surgery is right for your osteoporosis depends on your response to non-surgical treatments. Even if you experience a vertebral compression fracture, most people heal within 6-8 weeks with no need for further intervention. Patients are encouraged to try conservative treatments for at least 3-4 months before surgery is considered. Non-surgical treatments for osteoporosis typically include:
• Medications to slow or prevent bone loss • Periods of rest and modification of activities • Temporarily wearing a back brace to support the spine • Applications of ice and heat
Should pain from osteoporosis affecting your spine begin to impact your quality of life, it may be time to consider surgical options if non-surgical treatments aren’t providing relief. In some cases, you may initially respond well to conservative treatments until physical changes occur due to the weakening of your spine, such as a severely rounded upper back, sometimes resulting in increased discomfort.
Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are currently the most common surgical procedures performed to treat back pain related to bone deterioration. These vertebral augmentation procedures are considered minimally invasive alternatives to traditional spine surgery. During a kyphoplasty, a small balloon-like device is implanted into the fractured vertebra to restore spine height and shape. A vertebroplasty is a procedure in which a special type of cement is injected directly into the narrowed vertebra.
Unless a life-threatening situation is involved, spine surgery is a last resort. Most experts in the medical community encourage patients to exhaust all conservative treatments first. However, when pain becomes increasingly severe, affects quality of life, or does not become manageable with non-surgical spine treatments, surgery becomes an option worth considering.
If you’re interested in learning more about non-surgical treatment options or are seeking a surgical intervention to treat osteoporosis, call The Spine Institute Center at (310) 828-7757. Dr. Bae and his spine specialists offer both conservative treatments as well as surgical options like minimally invasive vertebroplasty and can help you rediscover a pain-free lifestyle.