Many people, including women and men of different ages, develop spinal compression fractures. Spinal fractures are known to occur in one in three women and one in eight men worldwide. These fractures often cause intense back pain and can affect a person’s ability to function in their daily life. These fractures do not just simply cause pain and prohibit normal functioning, but they also can lead to reduced activity and mobility, sleep disorders and reduced appetite, increased depression, increased risk of further spinal fractures, and increased risk of death. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to preventing a worsened outcome.
Patients with spinal fractures have many different symptoms. Back pain is, of course, the most common. When these fractures are left alone without proper treatment, they can lead to other issues that the patient may not necessarily be aware of. The patient may develop a spine deformity, may require the use of strong pain killers, will have less ability to do certain activities they have done prior, or may simply be afraid to perform any activities due to the risk of causing more pain. As these compression fractures worsen, and they do worsen with age, the patient becomes shorter in height, loses independence, and risks further spinal compression fractures. A “domino effect” of spinal fractures, or an increased number of fractures, increases the risk of death. This occurs because many spinal fractures cause a “kyphotic” or hunched back, which leads to compression of vital organs such as the heart and lungs.
There are many ways to diagnose spinal compression fractures. The most important first step is to seek professional help from a spine or pain specialist. That specialist will likely start by taking a very detailed history of your back pain, and then perform a physical exam. The next steps are likely to find out if you have a bone disease called Osteoporosis, or simply put, “brittle bones.” This is done by obtaining a spine MRI and bone density study. Blood lab testing may also be necessary. The specialist may also require help from an Endocrinologist if there is no clear reason as to why the patient developed spinal fractures. Other causes of spinal fractures are due to cancers or other endocrinological diseases.
If the spinal fracture is treatable, your spine or pain specialist may likely recommend minimally invasive treatment. This procedure is called a kyphoplasty, and is usually completed in less than an hour. It has a low complication rate and can be a “life-changing” procedure for someone who suffers from spinal fracture pain. Most of the time, relief occurs immediately, but in patients with chronic fractures, it may take up to two weeks to feel better. It is encouraged to discuss the risks and benefits of this procedure with your spine specialist. In most cases, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Call us today or request an appointment online!