Commonly found in patients with osteoporosis, an osteoporosis fracture occurs in fragile spines and may cause pain, vertebral collapse, and other debilitating symptoms.
What is an Osteoporosis Fracture?
- An osteoporosis fracture is a break or crack in a vertebra in the thoracic (middle) or lumbar (lower) part of the spine. Caused by osteoporosis, which is a type of arthritis that affects the spine and makes spinal bones porous and very fragile.
- Sometimes patients with an osteoporosis fracture believe they are experiencing common back pain and do not realize their condition is much worse. Since osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle, a minor trauma such as a slight fall or twist may cause a fracture.
- The most common symptoms experienced are sudden pain that is either sharp or radiating, and limited use of the extremities. Many osteoporosis fractures can be healed with rest, relaxation, and the help of anti-inflammatory medication.
- However, some osteoporosis fractures advance to the point of collapsing the vertebrae. Once the fracture collapses, it is known as a compression fracture, or a vertebral collapse.
What causes it?
There are two main causes of osteoporosis fractures: having osteoporosis, or sudden trauma. Patients with osteoporosis generally are at high risk for developing a fracture, and aging patients at 55 years and older are more susceptible as well.
The further a patient's osteoporosis advances, the more susceptible they are to getting a fracture. Patients with type 1 osteoporosis may develop a fracture from falls or twisting, but more advanced osteoporosis cases may cause a patient's vertebrae to fracture from insignificant actions like sneezing or coughing. Basically, the thinner, more porous, and more brittle the bones become, the easier it is to break under relatively normal pressure.
Osteoporosis fractures may cause the vertebrae to collapse over a period of time, usually depending on the patient's activity level and age. Also known as a compression fracture, a collapsed vertebra may cause chronic pain, decreased spine height, and kyphosis, an over-curvature of the back often known as "roundback". When a compression fracture develops from an osteoporosis fracture, it collapses at the front of the vertebrae, causing it to look like a wedge.
Some controllable causes include: lowered estrogen levels, history of broken and/or fractured bones, low body weight, calcium, and vitamin D levels, having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and low testosterone levels in men.
How do you treat it?
Treating an osteoporosis fracture may be done in stages. First, conservative methods of treatment are utilized in order to prevent fractures and slow down bone mass loss. Secondly, if a fracture does develop or worsen over time, then spinal procedures may be recommended.
Various conservative methods of treatment may include: proper nutrition and vitamin intake, participating in an active lifestyle including regular exercise, and osteoporosis medication to slow or stop bone mass loss. For developed osteoporosis fractures, some conservative methods may include: rest and relaxation, bracing, anti-inflammatory medication, and hot and cold compresses.
When conservative methods of treatment fail to heal and/or prevent more fractures, then a surgical procedure may be recommended. Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are two procedures that may treat an osteoporosis fracture.
If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for a spinal procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.