A collapse of the vertebra, a vertebral compression fracture causes significant pain to people afflicted with this condition. A number of factors have been identified as leading causes for this kind of spinal column damage. Patients who have been diagnosed with these fractures are typically treated with anti-inflammatory medications or cement fusion procedures.
Causes of Vertebral Compression Fractures
This injury can stem from direct trauma to the spinal column or because of medical conditions associated with bone weakening. Common factors identified as causing these fractures include:
• Shock to the Vertebrae: Trauma inflicted by a direct shock or hit to the spinal column can cause the vertebrae to collapse and fracture. Falling off a step-stool or ladder, being ejected from an ejection seat, or slipping and falling on steps can cause a person to damage his or her vertebrae to the extent that one or more vertebra are fractured.
• Osteoporosis: People afflicted with osteoporosis are at risk of fracturing their vertebrae. Because their bones are weakened, osteoporosis patients must take care to avoid fracturing their spinal columns.
Treatment of Vertebral Compression Fractures
While extremely painful, these fractures can be effectively treated with a variety of medical procedures. Doctors who treat patients with vertebral compression fractures use these methods to help patients regain mobility and find relief from their pain:
• Back Braces: Patients with vertebral fractures may heal quickly by wearing a back brace to immobilize their spinal column. The back brace keeps the bones in the column aligned and prevents further injury to this part of the body. A back brace can be worn to help a person avoid going through surgery; however, patients also may wear the braces after undergoing surgical procedures to repair their fractured vertebrae. Most patients wear their braces for 8 to 12 weeks.
• Surgery: Many doctors today rely on procedures such as vertobroplasty to repair these fractures. These operations tend to be minimally invasive, yet effective in allowing doctors to insert cement into the affected bones. These procedures also do not require extensive recovery periods, allowing patients to resume their normal lives within a few days after their surgeries.
• Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Because these fractures are very painful, patients typically need stronger painkillers than can be purchased over-the-counter. Doctors can prescribe patients anti-inflammatory medications that help relieve the swelling and pressure in their vertebrae while relieving their pain at the same time. These medications are often used in conjunction with other treatment methods for vertebral compression fractures.
• Physical Therapy: After going through surgery or having their back braces removed, people could then be referred to physical therapy. Physical therapy helps patients regain mobility in their backs and also teaches them how to maintain their own weight while their backs heal. Therapy could help patients rely less on medications and more on exercise during their recoveries.
Vertebral compression fractures are painful injuries that respond well to modern treatment methods like surgery, braces, and physical therapy. People who suffer these fractures often do so after falling or experiencing direct shock to their backs. People who have osteoporosis also are at an increased risk of developing these compression fractures. During the course of their treatments, patients may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, which are designed to relieve the pain, swelling, and overall discomfort of recovering from this kind of injury.