1. What are Vertebral Fractures?
Vertebral fractures are caused by trauma to the vertebrae or by a crumbling vertebrae resulting from osteoporosis (this is known as a compression fracture). Simply put, a vertebral fracture occurs when a vertebra (one of the 26 bones that make the spinal column) breaks (See Picture to the Left). Breakages can occur in various places of a vertebra (for instance, the spinous process, transverse process and/or vertebral body).
A compression fracture is the most common type of vertebral fracture. A compression fracture occurs along the vetrabral body of a given vertebra. Compression fractures cause mechanical back pain, but can also put pressure on the nerves of the spine. This nerve pressure can create leg pain.
2. What will cause a Vertebral Compression Fracture?
Osteoporosis, trauma and pathological
conditions cause vertebral compression fractures.
Osteoporosis predisposes individuals to compression fractures. In those with osteoporosis, the quality (bone density) of bone is reduced enabling the bone to break much easier. Osteoporosis most commonly occurs in women who have gone through menopause, but it can also occur in elderly men and in people who have had long-term use of a steroid medication.
Individuals without osteoporosis can have a vertebral compression fracture if trauma. Trauma such as car accidents, sport injuries and/or falls can cause fractures in the spine.
Last but not least, pathological conditions can cause circumstances in which minor trauma will cause a breakage in bone. A pathological fracture refers to a fracture occurring in the vertebra due to pre-existing disease. Most commonly, cancers and infections are responsible for these types of compression fractures.
3. What are the signs and symptoms of a vertebral Compression Fracture?
Most often pain will be felt in the mid and lower back. Some people may also have hip, abdominal or thigh pain. Signs of numbness, tingling and weakness are common. This may result due to compression of the nerves at the fracture site. If the patient feels that he/she is losing control of urine/stool and/or has the inability to urinate, this could represent that the fracture may be pushing on the spinal cord itself. This is a medical emergency.
4. How do you diagnose a Compression Fracture?
A vertebral compression fracture is diagnosed through an x-ray of the area in question. MRI’s or CT Scans are rarely used to diagnose a compression fracture.
5. How are Compression Fractures treated?
and physical rehabilitation programs are benefical to commence as soon as possible. Within these programs, patients may be encourages to use ICE or Cryotherapy
during the painful and acute phases. ICE usually is applied to the area of discomfort for the first week (apply ICE ten minutes at a time with a 10 minutes break). It is important to have a stretching and strengthening program implemented as soon as possible. We will design a program just for you.