10 Facts about Compression Fractures

1. Usually occurs on the thoracic region (T1 to T12) and the Lumbar region (L1 to L5). Even more common on the T9 to L1 vertebra. A weakening on a vertebral bone that causes a fracture resulting in it being irregularly shaped.

2. Symptoms

● Lower back pain that worsens when you stand or walk.
● Tightening of internal organs resulting to a bulging stomach.
● Weight loss.
● Kyphosis.

3. Types of compression fractures

● Wedge fracture – the most common type. Where the front portion of the vertebra collapses leaving a wedge shaped irregularity.
● Crush fracture – the entire vertebra is compromised from front to the back.
● Burst fracture – all sides of the vertebra is damaged causing it to shorten on either side.

4. Causes

● Osteoporosis is the leading cause of compression fracture. It is a bone disease where density of the bone is decreased substantially resulting in weaker and softer bones.
● Trauma or a physical injury directed towards the spine. This can be brought about by exerting to much pressure between vertebrae such as lifting excessive weights or absorbing the impact from jumping.
● Metastasis is the spreading of cancer cells through other parts of the body.

5. Foreshortening of the body because of osteoporosis is caused by fractures and deformities on the vertebrae and not by the disease itself.

6. A normal spine typically curves at an angle on the thoracic region (T1 to T8) of 20º to 45º. A spine with an angle in excess of 45º is considered a deformity called Kyphosis or “hunchback”. This is a common condition in elderly women suffering from osteoporosis or fractures on the vertebrae resulting in a wedge deformity. This leads to compression of the spinal nerves as well as the organs under the ribs which in turn leads to more severe damages when left untreated.

7. People often confuse a compression fracture as arthritis or just a simple muscle strain.
It affects 25% of postmenopausal women and 20% of men above the age of 60 in the US alone with increased chances as people age.

8. Prevention

● Improving Calcium and Vitamin D intake.
● Avoid falls.
● Performing strength building and posture correcting exercises.
● Reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking.

9. A vertebral fracture exponentially increases the chances of other fractures during simple daily activities like walking or lifting heavy objects.

Mild fractures heal on their own in approximately 3 months with pain medicines, physical therapy or a back brace.

10. In most cases, compression fractures do not require surgery unless the condition is relatively severe in nature.

Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers, proper diet and physical therapy along with using a back brace. Back braces provide external support for a healing spine by limiting movements and preventing a further collapse of the vertebrae.

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