The spinal column consists of 34 individual bones called vertebrae. Separating the vertebrae from each other are intervertebral discs that cushion and absorb the stress and shock that the body incurs during movement, giving the spine flexibility. Compression fractures occur when the vertebrae collapse. Injuries like this are common among persons with osteoporosis and can occur as a result of even the most routine of everyday tasks, including bending or lifting.
In addition to pain, other signs and symptoms that someone may have had a compression fracture include the following:
- Loss of height (one of the reasons many older people seem to shrink as they age)
- Kyphosis (or “humpback”)
- Loss of balance (which increases the risk of falling)
- Neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness (which increases the risks of falling and breaking other bones)
Most cases of compression fractures can be treated using medications to relieve pain, bed rest, and the use of a back brace. The brace helps relieve pain by immobilizing the fracture and reducing the height loss resulting from the compression. The brace is discontinued when x-rays show no change in the position of the vertebrae and healing of the fracture.
In rare instances, severe compression fractures may require a surgical procedure in which special spinal hardware, such as hooks, rods, plates, and/or screws, are used to help fuse the vertebrae together to increase stability and prevent further injury. Recovery from this type of surgery can take several months. Please see Posterior Spinal Fusion (PSF).
We offer two minimally invasive techniques to treat compression fractures: vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. In these procedures, orthopedic cement is used to “rebuild” the vertebral space and return it to its original height. These procedures not only restore height and relieve pain but can also prevent future fractures by strengthening other vertebral bodies that are weakened but not yet fractured. After the procedure, most patients report immediate pain relief and are able to return to their everyday activities quickly.
Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are procedures used to treat painful vertebral compression fractures in the spinal column, which are common results of osteoporosis. Your doctor may use imaging guidance to inject a cement mixture into the fractured bone (vertebroplasty) or to insert a balloon into the fractured bone to create a space that is subsequently filled with cement (kyphoplasty).