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What is a Compression Fracture?

What is a Compression Fracture?

Dr. Marc Menkowitz and Dr. Steve Paragioudakis are board-certified orthopedic surgeons who are well-known for their expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect your spine.

Practicing at the Center for the Functional Restoration of the Spine (CFRS), with three locations in New Jersey, these top-level specialists lead our team of professionals who provide you with the best care available in a warm and welcoming environment.

Here, we share information regarding the cause, symptoms, and treatments we offer for compression fractures.

What is a compression fracture?

Vertebrae are vertically stacked bones in your spine that provide structural support for your backbone. Connected to one another with joints and ligaments, these hollow structures also house and protect the spinal cord and nerve roots that connect your brain to the rest of your body.

A compression fracture occurs when a vertebra breaks or cracks and collapses. Most common in the middle (thoracic) portion of your spine, these vertebral fractures can cause varying levels of pain and mobility issues that are often misdiagnosed as muscular strain or other soft tissue injuries.

What are the symptoms of a compression fracture?

Symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture may include:

Depending on the cause and the nature of the vertebral fracture, your pain may occur gradually and worsen over time or develop suddenly and be quite severe.  

While less common, nerve pain and dysfunction radiating (traveling) into the hips, legs, shoulders, or arms can occur if the collapsed vertebral body protrudes into the spinal canal and presses on the spinal cord or nearby nerves as they exit the spine.  

What causes compression fractures?

Osteoporosis, which causes your bones to lose density and strength, is the most common underlying cause of compression fractures. And because osteoporosis occurs more frequently in women than men, women are at a greater risk of developing a vertebral fracture.

Depending on the level of osteoporosis you have, a vertebra can collapse with even normal activity, such as when bending over to pick something up or sitting down abruptly on a wooden or metal chair or bench. Advanced osteoporosis can cause a compression fracture when you sneeze or roll over in bed.

Other causes of compression fractures include trauma related to a fall, car accident, or sports injury. Very rarely, spinal tumors or conditions such as multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer) can weaken the spine and lead to compression fractures.

How do you treat compression fractures?

Most compression fractures respond well to conservative therapies such as:

If conservative management fails to relieve your symptoms adequately, our CFRS specialists may recommend a minimally invasive procedure such as vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, or fusion to stabilize the spine. 

Schedule an evaluation at CFRS today for an accurate diagnosis and treatment for spinal compression fractures or any of the other conditions we treat.  

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