Get answers to your Spine related questions.
Vertebral compression fractures
Most compression fractures are found in elderly patients with osteoporosis. These fractures generally do not cause injury to the spinal cord. In these patients, the osteoporosis is treated with prescription medications and calcium supplements to prevent more fractures.
Otherwise, the pain from these fractures is treated with pain medicines and bed rest at first. Narcotics are often needed. Some health care providers recommend back braces, but these may further weaken the bones and increase your risk of developing more fractures in the future.
Patients may benefit from some physical therapy to help with movement and building up muscle strength around the spine. A medicine called calcitonin may help relieve bone pain.
If severe and disabling pain is still present after 2 months or more of bed rest, pain medicines, and physical therapy, surgery can be option. Your doctor will discuss surgery options with you. Two minimally invasive techniques are available:
If the fracture is caused by a tumor, a piece of the bone may need to be surgically removed and examined under a microscope (biopsy). Then the tumor is treated.
Fractures from trauma often require a brace for 6 - 10 weeks to protect the bone as it heals. If there is bone in the spinal canal, you may need surgery to remove the bone and fuse the vertebrae together to stabilize the spine.
Further spine surgery is almost always necessary if there is any loss of function because of bone pressing on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
Most compression fractures from trauma will heal in 8 - 10 weeks with rest, bracing, and pain medications. Recovery time will be many weeks longer if surgery is necessary.
Fractures due to osteoprosis usually become less painful with rest and pain medications, but some can cause chronic pain and disability.
While medications to treat osteoporosis can help prevent future fractures, the collapse of the vertebrae that has already occurred cannot be reversed.
For compression fractures caused by tumors, the outcome depends on the type of tumor involved. Some common tumors that involve the spine include:
Complications may include:
Call your health care provider if:
Klazen CA, Lohle PN, de Vries J, et al. Vertebroplasty versus conservative treatment in acute osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures (Vertos II): an open-label randomised trial. Lancet. 2010 Sep 25;376(9746):1085-92.
Wardlaw D, Cummings SR, Van Meirhaeghe J, et al. Efficacy and safety of balloon kyphoplasty compared with non-surgical care for vertebral compression fracture (FREE): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2009;373(9668):1016-24.
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