Compression Fracture of the Vertebrae
What is a
compression fracture of the vertebrae?
fracture is crumbling or collapse of small
sections of the bones of the spine that
occurs without any obvious cause, such as an
injury. The bones of the spine are called
vertebrae. More of the crumbling happens in
the front of the bone than the back, causing
the spine to bend forward.
How does it occur?
fractures in older adults are usually the
result of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes
bones to lose calcium and become more
porous, thinner, and weaker. "Dowager's
hump," a curving of the spine most often
seen in older women, is caused by
osteoporosis. About 20% of women have had a
compression fracture of the spine by age 70.
Osteoporosis develops over a period of
years. Factors that increase the risk of
developing osteoporosis include:
of regular, weight-bearing exercise
of sufficient calcium in your diet
being a woman past menopause who does
not take hormone replacements
having a family history of osteoporosis
getting very little sunlight and not
getting enough vitamin D from other
drinking a lot of alcohol
(prolonged bed rest or immobility
term use of heparin
What are the
occur only about half the time. The most
common symptom is sudden, severe pain in the
lower back or mid-back that may feel like a
muscle spasm. The pain may extend throughout
the back, hips, and legs. It can make moving
or trying to walk very difficult. Many
people recall the exact moment the pain
started and what they were doing at the
time. Often, the fracture occurs during
routine chores such as making a bed, opening
a door, or picking something up from the
You may have
a compression fracture without knowing it.
It does not always produce severe pain or a
change in the way your body works. Over
time, compression fractures may cause you to
become shorter by as much as several inches.
How is it
care provider will ask about your symptoms
and examine you. An x-ray is needed to
confirm the diagnosis.
How is it treated?
a compression fracture may consist of:
rest until your pain decreases, then
increasing your level of activity
gradually, according to how much you
feel you can do
wearing a corset or back brace to give
the fractured area added support
taking medication for pain
fracture heals, you will have less pain and
will be able to do more. You may find
assistive devices such as a cane or walker
helpful in getting around. Avoid stretching
or stooping to prevent further injury. When
you feel pain in your back, stop what you
are doing and apply either heat or cold,
whichever feels better.
compression fractures be prevented?
often runs in the family. Having a healthy
lifestyle with a good diet that includes
enough calcium and vitamin D and regular,
weight-bearing exercise can help prevent or
reduce the severity of osteoporosis. Speak
with your health care provider about other
ways of reducing your chances of developing
it. If you do have osteoporosis, ask about
body wisely when doing everyday tasks may
help prevent compression fractures. For
your legs rather than your back when you
pick up something from the floor.
objects close to your body when lifting
getting out of a chair, put your weight
over your feet and slide to the front of
the chair. Then, using the arms of the
chair, raise yourself to a standing
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