Compression fractures are fractures that involve the vertebrae. They happen most often when the vertebrae in the spine collapses from their full height to half their height. The most common cause of compression fractures is osteoporosis followed by a fall. Patients with osteoporosis suffer from decreased and weakened bone mass, making them susceptible to compression fractures sometimes even without a fall or other trauma. Osteoporosis sufferers may experience compression from merely lifting or bending. Another cause of compression fractures is cancer in the spine, although this is rarer. Athletes may develop compression fractures if they are active gymnasts, weight lifters or doing other strenuous activities. Besides osteoporosis, the other most common cause of compression fractures are patients that are involved in traumatic accidents such as bad car accidents.
The symptoms of compression fractions may vary depending on the cause. Compression fractures caused by weak and thin bones such as in osteoporosis patients may not experience much pain at all, or possibly none. If the vertebrae have collapsed, the patient may have a hunched appearance and pain if the back muscles are needed to do a lot of work. Sometimes, the pain disappears in a week or two, but other times, they need to seek medical attention for the pain.
Compression fractures caused by trauma may produce a severe pain that may spread to the legs. If the vertebrae are severely damaged where bone fragments are pressing on the spinal cord, paralysis may occur. Damage to the spine may become very serious, if not permanent with an injury such as this. You often hear about or see situations like this in bad automobile accidents or other accidents involving severe blows or trauma.
Treatment for compression fractures may vary, although in most cases, they say the best treatment is to prevent what causes the problem. The treatment method is usually to give relief for the pain and try to prevent the same type of injuries from happening again. In the case of patients with osteoporosis, the best treatment to prevent further problems is calcium, medications and exercise. If the compression is becoming a problem with severe pain, a method of treatment called vertebroplasy may be done. This procedure involves rebuilding the bone to its normal height and injecting cement to stabilize it as well as to prevent further damage. Patients with compression fractures will usually heal in 8 to 12 weeks, providing the injury was not from severe trauma, in which case, it may take longer. Patients with compression fractures are like to have them again, which is why doctors will stress preventative therapy and treatment.