If you feel like you are getting shorter as you age, you may be right! And the cause may not be poor posture (although it can be a part of it). The reason why you may be losing the high ground could very well be the result of a compression fracture. Here’s what they are and what you need to know about them.
Simply put, compression fractures are broken or damaged vertebrae in your spine. These fractures can be the result of injury, illness or simple wear and tear. Oftentimes, the weight of your own body and gravity cause vertebrae to collapse or compress onto those below. Compression fractures can cause pain and stiffness, but luckily, most compression fractures can be treated and stabilized.
Causes of Compression Fractures
The most common cause of compression fractures are weakened or brittle bones. There are number of causes of compression fractures. Osteoarthritis — when the cartilage starts to wear away, resulting in painful bone on bone contact – can cause the bone to weaken and break. These conditions can become chronic and often become more pronounced as people age.
Osteoporosis is another cause of compression fractures. Postmenopausal women of Caucasian or Hispanic ancestry are at greatest risk for developing osteoporosis, which occurs as a normally healthy and porous bone starts to lose mass. Osteoporosis often goes undiagnosed until the condition becomes noticeable in the form of slouching or dowager’s humps. In advanced osteoporosis, the spine can deform because the vertebrae are too brittle and weak to provide adequate support.
Other causes of compression fractures include trauma caused by an accident or injury, tumors that originate in the bones of the spine, and tumors that originally started in another part of the body
Symptoms of Compression Fractures
When caused by osteoporosis, fragility and fractures develop slowly. You may not have any symptoms to begin with, but gradually develop back pain when you walk or exercise. While this pain often subsides with rest, it doesn’t eliminate the physical manifestations, which include losing height and developing physical deformities that over time can affect the efficiency of your internal organs.
For those who develop compound fractures not as a result of osteoporosis, you can expect sudden and intense pain that may be associated with injury or with the development of tumors, as well as numbness and tingling that can occur if the spinal cord is affected by the compression.
Treatment of Compression Fractures
Your doctor will recommend treatment for compression fractures based on their underlying cause. Since the majority of compression fractures occur in people who have advanced osteoporosis – mostly older adults – weight-bearing exercises, a healthy diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, and physical therapy are encouraged. Medication may be prescribed to increase bone strength and density. When these treatments fall short, your orthopedist may recommend surgical options.
If tumors are causing the fractures, surgery or other treatments to remove the tumor will be advised, followed by a regimen of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.
Chronic or sudden back pain might indicate that you have a compression fracture. Don’t worry, because treatment can help. Advanced Bone and Joint is St. Peters and O’Fallon’s orthopedic and pain management experts. We offer all levels of care to ensure your best musculoskeletal health. Call us for a consultation today at (636) 229-4222 or you can also request an appointment online. We are here to provide the individualized care and treatments you need for a lifetime of good health.