Spinal Compression Fractures

DESCRIPTION

Spinal compression fractures occur when the normal vertebral body of the spine is squeezed or compressed. The bone collapses when too much pressure is placed on the vertebrae possibly resulting in pain, limited mobility, loss of height, and spinal deformities. In cases of severe compression fractures the vertebral body is pushed into the spinal canal which applies pressure to the spinal cord and nerves.

CAUSES

Spinal compression fractures can result from a spine that has been weakened by osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoporosis, tumor, or trauma.

SYMPTOMS

Children may experience severe pain in the back which worsens when standing or walking and decreases when resting. Other symptoms include weakness and numbness in the affected areas, limited spinal mobility, loss of overall height, and disability in severe cases. A hunchback, bulging stomach, shortness of breath, hip fracture, or gastrointestinal problems may indicate multiple fractures.

DIAGNOSIS

Your doctor may order diagnostic tests such as x-rays, MRI scans, and bone scans to help determine and confirm the fracture.

TREATMENT

Treatment for spinal compression fractures aims to reduce pain, stabilize the spine, and repair the fracture. Non-surgical options include bracing, bed rest, physical therapy / back exercises, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Surgery may be required if pain persists following after non-surgical treatment. There are two options for minimally invasive procedures for treating spinal compression fractures.

  • Kyphoplasty

    A deflated balloon called a “bone tamp” is injected into the spine and inflated until it expands to the desired height. The created space is then filled with an orthopedic cement called “polymethylmethacrylate”. The procedure helps to restore the height of the vertebrae, reducing the deformity.

  • Vertebroplasty

    Polymethylmethacrylate is injected into the collapsed vertebra. The injected cement hardens quickly stabilizing the fracture, relieving pressure, and preventing further collapse.

PREVENTION

  • Use proper posture and techniques for standing, sitting, lifting, and other physical activities
  • Avoid lifting heavy items, jumping, diving, horseback riding, sliding, and amusement park rides
  • Wear a seat belt when riding in cars and other vehicles
  • Avoid sitting at the back of the school bus
  • Do not wear a heavy book bag
  • Exercise regularly