Utah Vertebral Compression Fracture Pain & Treatment
What causes vertebral compression fractures?
When a vertebra is no longer strong enough to properly support a person's upper body weight, it will often become fractured and eventually collapse. The region of the back most often affected is the thoracic (middle section) spine. Vertebral body fractures happen commonly— aging is one of the major risk factors. A vertebra will crack when the weight it has to hold is greater than the bone can support. It happens to women (roughly 25% of post menopausal women) most often, but can be just as debilitating in a male.
Preexisting conditions that can lead to vertebral compression fractures
The spine is arranged so that it is both flexible and protective of the nerves and spinal cord. There are several conditions of the spine that are either painful themselves or weaken the spinal structure and result in pain. Some of the conditions are spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, neoplasms, infections, and vertebral body fractures. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty are extremely helpful in correcting these problems and alleviating pain.
The most common preexisting condition seen in patients who suffer from vertebral body fractures is osteoporosis, a condition that affects bone density, especially in post-menopausal women. It is estimated that roughly 40 percent of people above the age of 80 suffer from at least one compression fracture in the spine. Metastatic cancer that spreads to the vertebrae, especially in the lytic lesions, causes weakening and can be a contributing factor to vertebral body fractures. Any cancer patient who experiences a sudden onset of back pain or neurological changes in the lower extremities should seek immediate medical attention and be tested for metastatic disease. Trauma can also be the cause of vertebral body fractures.
Diagnosis of a Vertebral Compression Fracture
Because vertebral body fractures are so common, especially in older patients, anyone over the age of 50, especially those suffering from acute pain, should be evaluated for vertebral body fractures regularly. Before a physician makes a diagnosis, he will first administer a physical exam, focusing on tender spots on the spine and may order radiological imaging. Usually an X-ray is sufficient when checking for fractures in bone, but an MRI or CT scan will also provide the physician with further diagnostic information.
Utah Vertebral Compression Fracture Treatment
There are several ways to treat vertebral body fractures. The pharmacological treatment usually utilizes NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) and analgesics (aspirin, Tylenol) to treat acute pain. Though they may provide temporary relief, they do nothing to solve the underlying problem, and NSAIDs can actually cause gastrointestinal bleeding in older patients. Bed rest can also be helpful in reducing pain, but too much bed rest will only exasperate the problem.
Both vertebroplasty, injecting acrylic cement into a fractured vertebra, and kyphoplasty, which is similar to vertebroplasty but involves a small balloon being inflated in the collapsed vertebra before filling it with acrylic cement, have shown to be extremely helpful in reducing pain and increasing mobility in patients with vertebral body fractures. Treating osteoporosis before a fracture takes place has shown to be effective in avoiding fractures all together. Some treatments for osteoporosis include hormone replacement therapy, vitamin and mineral supplements, bisphosphonates, calcitonin, and selective estrogen receptor modulators.
For more information on how Omega Interventional Pain can help treat your vertebral compression fracture pain, please contact us at 801-261-4988.