There are a number of causes that may contribute to a vertebral compression fracture, but they are most common in patients with advanced osteoporosis. An estimated 25% of women will experience a vertebral compression fracture post-menopause and 40% of women over the age of 80.
For those with severe osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones), it can be caused by something as simple as stepping over an object or a sudden jarring movement. But for most, it is brought on by a fall or overexertion trying to lift something heavy. And patients with osteoporosis who have had a vertebral compression fracture are five times more likely to experience a second.
For people who do not have osteoporosis, a vertebral compression fracture is most likely to be caused by severe trauma such as a car accident or a contact sports injury. If a person under the age of 55 presents with a vertebral compression fracture and no trauma, metastatic tumors may be the cause, as this is a common site for the spread of cancers.
A vertebral compression fracture may have one or more of these symptoms:
- Sudden, often extreme, back pain which tends to occur in the lower back, but may occur in the neck, upper back or middle back
- Numbness or tingling signaling the compression of nerves at the site of the fracture
- Increased pain intensity when standing or walking
- Relief from pain when lying down
- Reduced mobility in the spine
- Incontinence or the inability to urinate
- Loss of height, spine deformity or disability
If you are over the age of 65, have cancer or experience continued pain, whether resting or while active, you should get an opinion from a doctor. Additionally, if you have recently lost weight or are experiencing one or more of the symptoms discussed above, it is advisable to get a diagnosis.
Your doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical exam and may order x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI to get a full view of the spine. If you have a severe fracture, you may need surgery.
A vertebral compression fracture is a serious condition and should not be left untreated. If you have ongoing back and neck pain, it is important to speak to advice from a qualified professional. At Northwest Surgical Specialists, our experienced doctors have the experience and expertise to ensure that you get an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment to manage your condition.