Vertebral Compression Fractures

Vertebral compression fractures result when the vertebrae (bones) of the spinal column weaken, which then leads to hairline fractures forming and the eventual collapse of the vertebrae. When this happens severe pain and possible loss in height occur. Comprehensive pain management is vital to a patient’s healing process. Our doctors can thoroughly evaluate your pain symptoms in order to accurately diagnose the cause. 

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Our Compression Fracture Services

Comprehensive pain management is vital to a patient’s healing process. Our doctors can thoroughly evaluate your pain symptoms in order to accurately diagnose the cause. 

Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we will work together with you to create a treatment plan that will effectively address your pain. Our pain management specialists are located throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

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Anatomy Of The Spine

The spinal column is made up of 24 individual bones (your vertebrae) and 2 naturally fused together at the base of the spine. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other to create a canal for the spinal cord. Then there is the Sacrem, which is a triangular shaped bone that is connected to the bottom of the last lumbar vertebrae and sits between the hip bones. The Coccyx (or tailbone) is three to five small bones fused together and located right below the Sacrem. 

The spine does not just have the vertebrae. There is also the 23 intervertebral discs or spinal discs between the bones. Your discs are the cushions between the vertebrates, all along your spinal column. Your discs act as ‘shock absorbers that allow for comfortable bending, twisting, and flexing. 

The spinal cord and nerves, which are part of the central nervous system and send messages from the brain to the muscles, run down the vertebral column. The nerves connect to the base of the brain and travel down the column, where the nerve roots branch off through the space known as the foramen and connects with the peripheral nervous system.  


Compression Fractures and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the most common cause of compression fractures and occurs in millions of people in the United States. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weakened with age due to losing calcium and other minerals. 

Bone is actually living tissue that has its own blood vessels and is made up of proteins, minerals, and vitamins. This allows your bones to grow and repair themselves as needed throughout your lifespan. As people age their ability to renew and regrow bone slows down and bone mass starts to decrease, as it is lost faster than the body is able to replace it. This is what leads to the bones becoming weaker. 

Osteoporosis can develop in anyone, at any age, but it is most often found in women who are older in age. It can also happen in those who smaller in frame, have a family history of Osteoporosis, naturally have a low bone density, and anyone who takes certain medications that are associated with getting Osteoporosis. 

Many people do not even realize they have Osteoporosis until a bone fracture forms and starts to cause someone pain. When Osteoporosis sets in your bones not only become thin and weak, but they also become brittle and it most often affects the hips, wrists, and especially the spine. When the bones become so weak and brittle in cases of severe Osteoporosis then any simple daily activity, such as lifting objects, moving about, and coughing or sneezing can result in a compression fracture. Moderate cases require more forceful activities or traumas, like lifting significantly heavier objects or falling on hard ground, in order for compression fractures to happen. 

Compression fractures caused by Osteoporosis are characterized by back pain, a hunched posture, and bones that more easily break altogether.  

Other Causes

  • Trauma to the back
  • Tumors that started in the bone or spread to the bone from elsewhere
  • Tumors that start in the spine, such as multiple myeloma

Compression Fracture Symptoms

Compression fractures can occur suddenly. This can cause severe back pain. The pain is most commonly felt in the middle or lower spine. It can also be felt on the sides or in the front of the spine. 

The pain is sharp. Some patients describe it as feeling like a knife. The pain can be disabling, and take weeks to months to go away. 

Compression fractures due to osteoporosis may cause no symptoms at first. Often, they are discovered when x-rays of the spine are done for other reasons. Over time, the following symptoms may occur: 

Pressure on the spinal cord from hunched over posture can, in rare cases, cause:

  • Back pain that starts slowly, and gets worse with walking, but is not felt when resting
  • Loss of height, as much as 6 inches over time
  • Stooped-over posture, or kyphosis, also called a dowager’s hump
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder

Reduce Your Rick Of Compression Fractures

While compression fractures may sometimes be unavoidable, like in situations where there is a fall or an accident that creates the fracture, and the chances for fractures go up with age, there are certain behaviors people can engage in or avoid in order to lower the risks for compression fractures. Some things you can do include: 

Calcium: Having a diet that gives you the proper amount of calcium can help to fortify bones and make them stronger. The daily recommended amount for both males and females, between the ages of 19 and 50, is 1,000 milligrams. It increases to 1,200 milligrams a day for those over 50 years of age. Dairy (i.e. milk, cheese, and yogurt) is one of the top ways people ingest calcium. Non-dairy options are sardines, salmon, broccoli, kale, and other types of vegetables. 

Vitamin D: This allows the body to absorb calcium more efficiently, which strengthens bones. Sunlight is most often how people think they can get their vitamin D, but it can be difficult for those who live in areas that do not get as much sun or have jobs that keep them inside for most of the daylight hours. The daily recommended amount of vitamin D for those between 19 and 70 years of age is 600 IU. If your vitamin D levels are low then you might be able to take a supplement, with the approval of your doctor.  

Exercise: Incorporating an exercise routine that includes strength training with weights is a good way to strengthen your bones and your back. Starting to exercise regularly when you’re young will give the best results, but it is important to simply start, no matter your age. Be sure to include both weight-bearing and balance exercises. 

Don’t Smoke. Smoking is actually associated with lowering the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which leads to bone density loss. 


Diagnosis of Compression Fractures

Our physicians are board certified, and are dedicated to giving you a comprehensive exam that will aid in diagnosing the cause of your symptoms. Using advanced diagnostic techniques, our back pain specialists will find out the reason for your pain, and then get you on the road to better health rigaht away. Here are a few steps our physicians use when completing their comprehensive exams:

  • We take your complete medical history to identify or rule out possible causes of your painNumbness
  • We conduct a thorough physical exam
  • We carefully review your symptoms, including how you would describe the pain (burning, achy, dull, etc.) and whether certain positions or activities make the pain feel better or worse
  • We may order diagnostic tests, including spine x-ray, bone density test, CT scan or MRI, to help us diagnose your chronic pain

Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we will work together with you to create a treatment plan that will effectively address your chronic abdominal or pelvic pain.


Compression Fracture Treatments

Treatments we offer for vertebral compression fractures include:

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At Pain and Spine Specialists, our team of physicians and nurse practitioners are committed to giving you the most effective treatment when treating your pain. We believe that all patients should have access to quality care, and that is why you can find us conveniently located throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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Please note: We accept Workers Compensation Insurance and Personal Injury Patients 

Please note: We accept Workers Compensation Insurance and Personal Injury Patients 


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