An estimated 1.5 million people experience vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) annually in the United States. When the bones of your spine lose density with age or disease, they can essentially collapse in on their spongy, toffee-like structure. However, you can experience a VCF through a trauma event, such as a car accident or sports injury, at any age.
Patients younger than 55 who experience a VCF without a traumatic injury could be suffering from a metastatic tumor, since the bones of the spine are often affected by spreading cancers. These undermine bone structure, leading to the collapse of the bone.
Symptoms of compression fractures
No matter how you acquire your VCF, there are some signs that the fracture has occurred, even if it doesn’t cause any obvious pain, although pain is frequently a problem. You may experience a sudden onset of pain as the VCF occurs. Pain could get worse as you stand or walk, and it lets up when you lie on your back.
The range of twisting motion permitted by your spine may decrease, and with time, you will lose height. Even further down the road, your back could become deformed and the impact of the VCF may leave you disabled.
You may notice sudden and severe pain that’s out of proportion with the activity you performed at the time of the pain’s onset. It could occur from motions like bending over to pick something up, or lifting using your back, such as when you remove a load from the trunk of your car. Slipping or tripping can jar your back and trigger the VCF.
When more than one vertebra collapses, your spine can change significantly, causing more complex and more serious symptoms. A vertebra that suffers a compression fracture often takes on a wedge shape when compared with its former profile. More than one VCF leads to an increasingly curved back, a condition called kyphosis.
Your stomach can be compressed as your spine loses height. This may affect your appetite, leading to weight loss or causing constipation. You can also experience breathing changes or hip pain. Your combination of symptoms may not be the same as other patients with VCFs, so investigating any back pain with your doctor is a good idea, particularly if you have VCF risk factors.
After the VCF
While it may take several months, pain that emerges when the VCF occurs can subside as healing progresses, but it’s not always the case. Some people continue to feel pain even after the fracture heals.
Likewise, some VCFs produce few symptoms at the time of the fracture, or cracks occur over time rather than suddenly, so symptoms also emerge more slowly. It’s possible to feel VCFs as a slow-developing backache.
Any time you’re experiencing back pain that interferes with daily living, it’s time to schedule a visit to see Dr. Shyam Purswani and his team. As interventional pain management specialists, they can help control your discomfort while the causes of your pain are investigated. Call Dr. Purswani’s office directly or request an appointment using the online tool.