The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)

 

How can I get rid of the pain caused by a vertebral compression fracture?

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 fracture.

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 treatment needed.

 

 






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Last modified: 07/27/08