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Compression Fracture of the Spine

Compression Fracture of the Spine

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What is it?

A compression fracture is a crushing-type injury that may occur to the body of the spinal vertebrae.  It causes a localized sharp, stabbing pain in the area of the fracture.  The injury may occur as a result of a fall or heavy crushing injury, however, most compression fractures occur as a result of osteoporosis or bone weaknesses (hemangiomas or bone tumors that hollow out the bone) within the body of the vertebra that reduce its ability to absorb forces.  Fortunately most of these fractures occur in a crumbling mechanism with little backward displacement of bone into the spinal canal.

What symptoms are associated with it?

Compression fractures are most common in the mid-back and typically cause a sharp, stabbing, burning sensation localized to the midline of the back.  The muscles on both sides of the spine will spasm. The pain will be greatly increased if pressure or vibration (like a tuning fork) is placed to the bone in the midline of the back.  Pain tends to worsen as a person stands upright (dependent upon gravity).  

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis is typically made with X-ray or a CAT scan.  X-ray diagnostic findings demonstrate a collapse of the front of the vertebrae as compared to the back edge of the vertebral body (as the X-ray demonstrates).  The vertebra typically “caves in” to the front, causing the person to have a hunched over appearance.

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How do you treat compression fractures?  

If the compression fracture is estimated to be 50% or greater compressed (comparing front to back height of vertebral body), a procedure called “vertebroplasty” or “kyphoplasty” can be performed.  Vertebroplasty is a process of injecting a fast drying cement into the bone.  Kyphoplasty is similar, but uses a “balloon-like” bladder that contains the cement to control the spread of cement.  

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If the fracture is severe or causes potential compromise to the spinal canal, surgical fusion may be required to stabilize the spine to protect from future spinal cord injury.

Fortunately, most compression fractures are mild and uncomplicated; they typically require only rest and pain medications.  Aquatic therapy is excellent for those suffering with osteoporosis fracture pain.  The water’s buoyancy creates a natural decompression to the injured area and the patient is able to move without pain to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles to get back to “Living”.

If you need our guidance with Aquatic Therapy–Call us today @936-856-8908!

Dr. Custer is the owner/operator of Better Care Chiropractic & Physical Therapy.  He is a doctor of chiropractic as well as a certified Athletic Trainer.  He works in conjunction with a physical therapist to combine chiropractic manipulation with active rehabilitative techniques to restore pain-free living.   If you have questions/comments/suggestions, please feel free to contact Dr. Custer at [email protected]

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