Compression fractures can make life very painful for patients in Kansas and Missouri. Compression fractures involve two or more broken vertebrae that are pushed together following an injury. Some compression fractures can take a while to show symptoms, while others may cause sudden, severe pain. The most common fracture injury that affects the spinal cord is a compression fracture.
Back pain directly following an injury is the first tip-off to a compression fracture. The pain can be severe and extend from the spine into the legs, hips, thighs, and abdomen. Further symptoms can include a loss of control over the bowels or the bladder. Loose bone fragments that became dislodged during the initial trauma may also cause a loss of sensation and even muscle paralysis.
Pain can be characterized as sharp, "knifelike" and may become disabling. Over time, the patient may develop a condition called kyphosis, or a hump in the back. Loss of up to six inches in height may result. The pain may continue for weeks and months. Difficulty in walking and other movements may result as well.
Compression fractures can be caused by many different factors. Cancerous tumors that begin in the bone may exert pressure on vertebrae resulting in a compression fracture. Cancers of the breast, lungs, and the prostate as well as lymphoma are commonly associated with compression fractures.
Osteoporosis is a leading cause of compression fractures in older adults. Every year, 700,000 compression fractures are caused by weakened bones breaking. Compression fractures in osteoporosis patients tend to affect the vertebrae in the chest and the lower back. Activities as simple as coughing, twisting around, or lifting something can cause compressed fractures in the elderly stricken with osteoporosis. Pain may come on gradually, worsening over time.
Compression fractures that result from a forceful impact tend to be very painful. Hard falls and automobile accidents can cause painful fractures. The pain after such an accident is usually severe - occurring directly following the trauma. Severe trauma can cause bone fragments to lodge into the spine and press into the spinal cord. The spine may become unstable, causing the patient to slump forward.
Elderly patients and others who suffer from osteoporosis will generally feel relief after weeks of rest and pain medication. Osteoporosis medications may help prevent future fractures, although the damage from past fractures cannot be reversed. Permanent disability from the compression fracture may result, as well as chronic pain.
Surgery is not considered in most cases. For trauma patients, several weeks of pain medication, rest, and wearing a back brace can aid healing. However, the presence of bone in the spinal column calls for surgery to remove the fragment and fuse the bone together for stability.
Surgical options for compression fractures include two procedures that are minimally invasive. One option, balloon kyphoplasty, involves the use of a needle that is inserted into the compressed bone where a balloon is placed and inflated. The balloon then raises the vertebrae up while surgical cement is injected to prevent future collapse. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A related procedure, vertebroplasty, is done under a local anesthetic and involves inserting cement between the vertebrae as well.
Patients can generally expect a recovery period of several weeks following a compression fracture. Limited mobility may continue for many months following an injury. Compression fractures that are the result of an automobile or motorcycle accident tend to be more severe and can require longer recovery periods. If surgery is necessary the rehabilitation period is extended even further.
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