More than 750,000 vertebral compression fractures occur every year in the United States, often causing chronic back pain. Ashraf Guirgues, MD, at the Carolinas Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery has helped many patients overcome the pain of compression fractures with conservative therapies and minimally invasive procedures that restore the affected vertebrae. If you experience sudden back pain, call one of the offices in Morehead City, Swansboro, or Jacksonville, North Carolina, or book an appointment online.
Compression fractures occur when a bone collapses because it’s too weak to support the normal pressure placed on the bone. These fractures most often develop in your spine, where they’re called vertebral compression fractures.
Vertebral compression fractures may occur during a traumatic injury such as a car accident or fall. A benign or malignant tumor can also weaken the bone enough to make it collapse.
The most common cause, however, is osteoporosis. Bones affected by osteoporosis become so weak that everyday activities such as twisting, reaching, and coughing can cause a compression fracture.
Most patients experience pain that feels worse when they move, cough, or sneeze. Your upper back may gradually develop a rounded appearance. This condition, called kyphosis, occurs when several neighboring vertebrae have compression fractures.
A compression fracture makes the front of the vertebra collapse while the backside stays intact, giving the vertebra a wedge-like shape. When several thoracic vertebrae in a row all have a wedge shape, they create a rounded hump in the spine.
After reviewing your medical history and evaluating your symptoms, the team at Carolinas Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery orders diagnostic imaging to verify your diagnosis. Your treatment takes a two-pronged approach that includes treating the underlying osteoporosis, while also dealing with the compression fracture.
Treatment for osteoporosis typically consists of bisphosphonates and monoclonal antibody medications to strengthen your bones and lower your risk of future compression fractures. Women can significantly reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis if they start estrogen replacement therapy shortly after menopause.
Your treatment plan for a compression fracture depends on whether or not the bone has healed. After the bones heal, your treatment may include bracing and physical therapy.
Before the bone heals, however, the team may recommend:
Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure in which your doctor uses imaging to guide a needle into the vertebra and inject bone cement. Your pain is relieved as the cement strengthens the bone and stabilizes your spine.
Kyphoplasty is similar to vertebroplasty, but after inserting the needle, your doctor inflates a balloon that restores the height of the collapsed vertebra. Then the balloon is removed and cement is injected to fill the new space. This procedure restores the normal shape of your vertebrae while also stabilizing the spine.
If you develop sudden back pain, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Call the Carolinas Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery or use the online booking feature.