Occurring in about 700,000 people each year, a vertebral compression fracture is a vertebra in the spine that has decreased in height (15 to 20 percent) due to fracture. This condition is typically caused by osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones of the body progressively lose their density, making them weaker and more prone to breaking.
Vertebral compression fractures occur almost twice as much as other conditions related to osteoporosis, such as a broken hip. In addition, while not all vertebral compression fractures are the result of osteoporosis, this condition is an indication of the presence of the disease.
When the vertebrae of the spine weaken, they begin to shrink or narrow and lead to a “bent forward” look. In their weakened state, the vertebrae are at a high risk for fracture, which occurs when too much pressure is placed on them. This causes the front of the vertebrae to crack and lose height.
A vertebral compression fracture can be the result of an injury following a fall, but those with osteoporosis can incur a fracture doing everyday activities, such as reaching or coughing.
Pain is the primary symptom of a vertebral compression fracture and the pain will resonate close to the break itself. It predominantly occurs in the middle (thoracic) and low (lumbar) portions of the spine.
Pain resulting from this condition increases in severity with standing or sitting for long periods of time and can often be relieved by lying down or resting.
Following a medical history and symptom breakdown, Dr. LaRocca will perform a physical examination to assess the alignment of the spine and posture. He will also place pressure on certain points of the back to determine the source of the pain and whether it is the result of muscle or bone injury. Meanwhile, a neurologic exam will be performed to test for reflexes and muscle strength.
Diagnostic testing may also be conducted to determine a diagnosis, including:
The experienced and dedicated team at NJNBI, led by Dr. LaRocca, offers comprehensive spine surgery treatment options for vertebral compression fractures including anterior and posterior lumbar fusion surgery.