Osteoporosis is a disease where the calcium from bone is lost over the
years. It is more common in women. Softer, decalcified bones are more
easily broken and can crack from even minor trauma. A compression fracture
(or collapse of a vertebral bone) most commonly results from a fall.
Compression fractures can be treated with pain medication, with bed
rest, with open surgery, and with
minimally invasive techniques known as
“vertebroplasty” or “kyphoplasty.” Pain medications are usually tried
first. If they are adequate, surgery is not needed. Bed rest is rarely
recommended now. The risks associated with prolonged bed rest are higher
than the risk of surgery. Bed rest in the elderly can cause pneumonia and
deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) among other severe problems. The
minimally invasive procedure, on the other hand, is done using only a
needle. The needle is placed in the broken bone using X-ray guidance.
Tools are then inserted through the needle to restore the normal shape of
the vertebrae. Finally, hard plastic is injected to stabilize the
The best treatment remains preventative. Calcium supplements and
exercise reduce the risk in the elderly. Medication may be prescribed to
reverse severe bone loss in some. Hormone replacements are provided in
some and Fosamax is used for others.
If you, or a relative, have severe back pain after a fall, you need to
see a spine specialist. X-rays will be used to determine the type of