Compression Fracture Q & A
What is a compression fracture?
Compression fractures affect the vertebrae in your spine. This type of fracture occurs when a vertebra loses 15% or more of its height and is most often due to the effects of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease that often affects women after menopause. Men can get osteoporosis, and it can affect younger people, but it’s mainly women over 60 who have the most problems.
Osteoporosis leads to a loss of bone density, which leaves the bones weak and more vulnerable to fracturing. When the disease reaches an advanced stage, bones can fracture under the slightest pressure, and a fall is almost certain to cause fracturing.
Osteoporosis can develop when levels of the female sex hormone estrogen drop, which is what happens during menopause. Other significant risk factors for developing osteoporosis include a lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet, and smoking.
What types of compression fractures are there?
There are several types of compression fractures:
Fractures that cause the vertebrae to end up the shape of a wedge are the most frequently occurring type of compression fractures. With a wedge fracture, the damage is in the front of the vertebra, which compacts, but the back of the vertebrae stays the same height, producing the wedge shape.
A crush fracture is one that affects the whole vertebra rather than the front alone.
Burst fractures have slivers of bone sticking out of them and are likely to be unstable. They can lead to further complications, such as increasing spinal deformity and damage to the spinal cord.
What symptoms do compression fractures cause?
Like most fractures, compression fractures cause acute pain that can be severe. The acute pain subsides to become a chronic problem, and as the number of compression fractures increases, you start to develop what’s known as dowager’s hump.
The correct name for this common symptom of osteoporosis is thoracic kyphosis. It makes your back round and humped and can cause complications such as:
Loss of height
Crowding of internal organs
Loss of muscle
Loss of lung function
In addition to the acute and then chronic pain of compression fractures, developing thoracic kyphosis can be disabling, and could also have a damaging effect on your self-esteem.
How are compression fractures treated?
Treatment for compression fractures could involve:
Hot or cold therapy
The team at Oklahoma Pain Physicians can also provide advanced surgery for some patients who have compression fractures. The two options are:
Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure. Your provider at Oklahoma Pain Physicians injects acrylic cement into the vertebra that has a compression fracture. The cement helps stabilize the bone, which reduces your pain.
Kyphoplasty is also minimally invasive. Your provider at Oklahoma Pain Physicians inserts a medical-grade balloon into the fractured vertebra. They then inflate the balloon to restore height to your vertebra.
If you have osteoporosis or a compression fracture, call Oklahoma Pain Physicians today or request an appointment online.