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Last updated: Oct 6, 2021

Compression Fractures

Even the tiniest split in one of the vertebrae in your spine can lead to excruciating pain. Sometimes, you may not even realize that you’ve seriously damaged your back. Rather than trying to diagnose your back pain yourself, rely on experts who deal with back pain every day. At Redefine Healthcare in northern New Jersey, you receive a firm diagnosis. If you have a compression fracture, you’ll receive the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. Call today for an appointment.

Compression FracturesA compression fracture in your back occurs when one or more of the spinal vertebrae collapse. Vertebrae are the chain of bones in your spine that protects the spinal cord, allows for movement, and supports your weight. When that chain is damaged, you experience severe pain that requires the expertise of a pain management specialist who understands the complexities back pain.

The most common location for a compression fracture is on the lower part of your thoracic spine, causing middle back pain.

These types of fractures can cause severe back pain, constriction of spinal blood flow, and a reduction in your height. Extensive imaging tests can help your doctor at Redefine Healthcare pinpoint the source of your discomfort so that you receive targeted compression fracture treatment.

Causes of Compression Fractures

The majority of vertebral compression fractures result from bone structures weakened by osteoporosis. Other common causes include tumors, car accidents, and even both high- and low-impact athletics. A fall during a basketball game or an excessive bend during a yoga session can cause vertebral compression fractures.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, certain yoga positions create excessive torsion, flexion, and stress on your spine.

Severe osteoporosis results in such weak and brittle bones that something as innocuous as stepping out of a shower or even sneezing can cause a compression fracture. In moderate cases, compression fractures require more significant force, such as falling or lifting a heavy object.

Compression Fracture Risks

Vertebral compression fractures afflict more than 750,000 osteoporosis patients each year. They are the most common form of bone fracture. Osteoporosis patients who’ve suffered one compression fracture are 500 percent more likely to sustain another one.

While compression fractures can occur at any age, the risk rises as you get older.

Although about one-quarter of all menopausal women have endured a compression fracture, the number increases to four in 10 for women over 80. While far more frequent in women, men also become more susceptible to compression fractures as they age.

For patients younger than 55 who haven’t had a traumatic spinal injury, metastatic tumors might cause a compression fracture. The spine is fertile ground for cancer to grow and spread, and it weakens the vertebrae to the point of collapse in the process.

Compression Fracture Symptoms

When compression fractures appear suddenly after an accident, sports injury, or sudden inappropriate movement, they tend to exhibit symptoms that include:

  • Immediate severe stabbing pain that may take weeks to months to dissipate
  • Middle or lower back pain
  • The sides and front of the spine are more sensitive than the back of the spine

Compression fractures due to osteoporosis tend to develop over time and have symptoms such as:

  • Back pain that increases with activity and decreases with bed rest
  • A decrease in height
  • Reduced spinal mobility
  • Kyphosis, characterized by a hunched-over posture with accompanying symptoms such as:
      • Tingling
      • Numbness
      • Trouble walking
      • Lack of bowel and bladder control
      • Eventual deformity and disability

    Compression Fracture Treatment

    Once diagnosed by your northern New Jersey physician, the treatment for compression fractures depends on the cause of the damage. If osteoporosis is responsible, your doctor begins treating it with calcium and vitamin D supplements to improve bone density.

    If the compression fracture did not injure the spinal cord, basic treatments might include:

    • Activity reduction, but not complete inactivity
    • Over-the-counter pain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Short-term opioid medication
    • Back braces, used sparingly to limit spinal movement enough to alleviate pain
    • Physical therapy to increase strength and mobility
    • Calcitonin for relieving bone pain

    If these treatments for compression fractures don’t stop your pain, surgical procedures are available. Your pain management specialist may recommend:

    • Vertebroplasty. Your doctor injects quick-drying cement into your broken vertebrae. The additional strength and support you get from the treatment reduce the pain.
    • Balloon kyphoplasty. Similar to vertebroplasty, the procedure first inflates the space between the vertebrae with a balloon. Once the spine returns to its original length, your doctor removes the balloon and injects the medical-grade cement to provide stability and reduce the pressure on the nerves exiting your spine.

    Regardless of the cause of your injury, the doctors at Redefine Healthcare can treat your compression fracture with the least invasive and most cutting-edge techniques available. Contact the pain management experts today for a definitive diagnosis and the best compression fracture treatment for your specific needs.

This page was published on Oct 9, 2019, modified on Oct 6, 2021 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare
Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist

Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist in New Jersey, is board-certified and fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine and Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is an expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures and non-surgical orthopedic care.

Dr. Freeman is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Interventional Pain Practice Society. In addition, he serves as the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Freeman is well-known in the field of pain management as a leading pain management doctor, having been named one of "America's Top Physicians."

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