Know the Signs of Developing Compression Fractures

Regular doctor visits are essential.

Everyone is at risk of developing compression fractures, especially as they get older. However, women have a much higher chance than men, with 25% of women age 50 and older being diagnosed with at least one vertebral compression fracture.

 

Many patients who come to Space City Pain Specialists ask how they can prevent this common back problem and what signs might clue them into a developing compression fracture. Here’s the information you need to know.

About vertebral compression fractures

When a vertebra develops a compression fracture, the bone simply collapses because it’s too weak to support the pressure normally placed on your spine. Vertebral compression fractures typically affect the thoracic spine, which is the middle area between your neck and lower back.

 

Osteoporosis is the top cause of compression fractures, leading to such weak and brittle vertebrae that they can collapse with very little pressure. Daily activities, such as twisting to the side or coughing, can trigger a vertebral compression fracture.

Signs of a compression fracture

Unfortunately, osteoporosis doesn’t give you any advance warning. A fracture is usually the first sign that you have the disease. However, as compression fractures develop, you may experience symptoms, such as:

Back pain

Your compression fracture may happen quickly, with the sudden collapse of the vertebra causing immediate and intense pain. However, your compression fracture may develop gradually, initially causing mild back pain that slowly gets worse.

Tingling, burning, or numbness

A vertebral compression fracture may pinch the nearby nerves, causing various symptoms, such as tingling, burning, or numbness that travels down your arms or legs.

Limited spinal mobility

With or without pain, you may notice that your spine feels stiff or loses its normal range of motion.

Rounded back

Some patients with multiple compression fractures develop a condition called kyphosis, which is a rounded curvature in their thoracic spine. When you have a compression fracture, only the front of the vertebra collapses, while the backside stays the same height. As a result, the bone takes on a wedge-like shape.

 

Suffering compression fractures in several neighboring vertebrae can create a rounded back as their adjacent wedge-like shapes create a curve in the spine.

Loss of height

Loss of height happens slowly as more than one vertebra collapses.  

How to prevent a compression fracture

The best way to prevent a compression fracture is to minimize your risk of developing osteoporosis. The first thing you need to know is that everyone naturally loses bone mass throughout adulthood.

 

Your bones reach their peak mass by age 30, and then for the rest of your life, you lose old bone faster than it’s replaced with new bone. But if you know the risk factors, you can adjust your lifestyle to prevent weak bones:

Nutrition and lifestyle

You need to consume enough calcium and vitamin D to support ongoing bone regrowth. Weight-bearing exercises are also essential for maintaining strong bones, as exercise triggers bone production.

Hormonal changes

The loss of estrogen at menopause significantly increases every woman’s risk of osteoporosis. In the five to six years after initially reaching menopause, women lose 10-20% of their bone mass. Hormone replacement therapy may be able to help replace your lost hormones.

Monitor medications

You’re more likely to develop osteoporosis and increase your risk of developing compression fractures if you take steroid medications for a long time. Furthermore, medications to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease have also been linked to osteoporosis.


We have a wide range of therapies to relieve back pain and treat compression fractures. If you develop ongoing back pain or other symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Space City Pain Specialists.

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