Vertebral compression fractures occur when a vertebra in the spine has decreased in height due to a fracture. Affecting roughly 700,000 people per year, the condition is commonly caused by osteoporosis, but it can also be caused by major trauma and carries the risk of damage to the spinal cord. New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C. is highly experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of vertebral fractures. Led by Dr. LaRocca, our medical team is standing by to help you find relief from your symptoms and get you on the road to recovery.
Causes of a Vertebral Compression Fracture
A vertebral compression fracture is a result of weakening in the spine’s vertebrae, the small bones that form the spine. As vertebrae weaken, they begin to shrink or narrow, causing them to appear as if they’re bending forward. In this weakened state, the vertebrae are at a higher risk for fractures. When too much pressure is placed on them, the front of the bones crack and lose 15-20 percent of their height.
While vertebral fractures can result from serious injuries, they are highly common in patients with osteoporosis, a disease in which bones lose their density and become weaker over time. Daily activities as simple as coughing or reaching for an object can cause a vertebral fracture in those with osteoporosis. If you sustain a vertebral compression fracture without injury or a history of osteoporosis, it may be an indicator that osteoporosis is present.
In addition, metastatic tumors may cause vertebral compression fractures in patients younger than the age of 55 who haven’t sustained major trauma in their lifetime. This is because cancers in other areas of the body commonly spread into bones found in the spine, causing damage to the vertebrae and weakening it until it fractures.
Signs and Symptoms
Predominantly affecting the thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) portions of the spine, vertebral compression fractures primarily present with pain in the affected area. The condition can also be accompanied by the following signs and symptoms:
- Height loss
- Limited mobility
- Increased discomfort while standing or walking
- Decreased discomfort when laying on the back
- Eventual development of deformity and disability
You should see your doctor right away if you experience the sudden onset of any of these symptoms or notice that your back has become deformed. You should always seek out medical assistance if any symptoms begin to interfere with the daily activities of life.
Diagnosis & Treatment
When you choose New Jersey Neck & Spine Institute, P.C., your first appointment will include Dr. LaRocca taking a complete medical history and analyzing your symptoms. He will then perform a physical examination to assess your spine’s alignment and posture, as well as place pressure on certain points to determine the source of pain. You’ll also undergo a neurological exam to test your muscle strength and reflexes, and you may receive diagnostic testing such as:
- Bone mineral density scan (DEXA)
- Bone scan
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test
Once Dr. LaRocca determines if your symptoms are the result of a muscle or bone injury, he will diagnose your condition appropriately. If it turns out to be a vertebral fracture, Dr. LaRocca will explain your options for treatment. These typically include several types of comprehensive spine surgery, including anterior and posterior lumbar fusion surgery. For more information, contact us today to schedule an appointment.