Compression fractures in the spine occur when force through the spine from a fall, an accident, or from repetitive movement is sufficient to cause the vertebral body to collapse or crush on itself. These fractures most often are associated with an aging spine or in individuals who have a diagnosis of osteoporosis on osteopenia. These diagnoses indicate a lack of bone density and therefore a deficient capacity to resist compressive stress.
Although most are relatively benign, a compression fracture can be cause for an emergency room visit due to its close relation to the spinal cord. Immediate medical attention should be sought if any of the following are new symptoms after an incident that puts compression through the spine:
- Loss of or major disruption of bowel or bladder function
- Complete loss of sensation in both Legs
- Complete loss of muscle function in both Legs
Treatment for Compression fractures most often includes bracing to stabilize the affected area of the spine, medication to control pain, physical therapy to improve stability and muscle support around the fracture while preserving mobility at adjacent segments and time to allow the fracture to heal. With increasing frequency, some medications that have potential to improve bone density or at least slow or even halt the loss of more bone may be initiated by a physician following a compression factor depending on the cause of the fracture.