Signs of a Spinal Compression Fracture and How to Treat It

If you have osteoporosis, you're at risk of a spinal compression fracture if your condition goes untreated. When your bones are soft, they fracture more easily when you fall or make a sudden movement. Sometimes, a compression fracture is the first symptom of osteoporosis. It's a wake up call to undergo treatment and make lifestyle changes to make your bones stronger because, once you've had one spinal compression fracture, you're at greater risk of having another. Here is some information on these fractures and what you can do about them.

Symptoms of a Spinal Compression Fracture

The primary symptom of a compression fracture is sudden pain after an incident. It could be a major incident, such as a bad fall, or it could be something minor, such as sneezing. The pain is probably bad enough to send you to the doctor for treatment. It may get worse when you stand and feel better when you stretch out on your back. However, it's possible you could have a fracture and not experience much pain, especially if you are used to having frequent backaches. You may think you're having muscle spasms or your usual back pain.

If you don't have the compression fracture diagnosed and treated, you are at risk of further fractures. Multiple fractures could affect your posture. You could develop a hunch in your back as your spine becomes misshapen. Another effect of compression fractures is a gradual decline in your overall health due to inactivity from pain. If the pain keeps you from being active, your muscles get weak, and that makes it easier to get tired, sore, and injured when you do move around. You may also notice your height decreases as your spinal column shortens and changes its shape. There may also be limited mobility in your spine, which makes twisting motions more difficult or impossible to do.

Treatments for Compression Fractures

The main treatment in the first few days is to alleviate your pain. You may need prescription medication, but over-the-counter medicines may work just as well, depending on the severity of your pain. Your doctor may also start you on osteoporosis medication right away so your bone loss slows down. You may be instructed to stay in bed and rest for the first few days after your fracture, and you may even wear a rigid back brace. The acute pain should go away in a matter of days, but you will probably continue to have dull, chronic pain for a few months until the fracture heals. You don't want to stay in bed any longer than your doctor recommends because if your muscles get weak, you'll develop further problems. Inactivity also leads to bone loss, so your doctor may prescribe physical therapy once your acute pain goes away.

Surgery Options for a Spinal Compression Fracture

Compression fractures often heal on their own within several months, but if you have severe pain that persists or that's too intense to tolerate, your doctor may recommend surgery. One type of surgery fuses the fractured vertebrae to a nearby healthy one so it is stabilized. Another type isn't as invasive. It involves injecting a type of bone cement into the fracture that artificially heals the fracture as soon as the bone cement dries.

Surgery isn't always necessary. Your doctor considers the severity of your condition, how well you've responded to other treatments, your overall health, and how the fracture is impacting your life before deciding if surgery is the right choice. If you're a good match, the surgery can give you relief from pain and allow you to be more active. The most important treatment when it comes to fractures caused by osteoporosis is to build up your bones, which is usually done with medications that strengthen your bones. This reduces your risk of developing another fracture and helps you avoid the consequences of posture changes and limited mobility.

Talk to doctors at facilities like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for more information about spinal compression fracture treatment.