A spinal fracture occurs when one of the bones in the spine fractures or collapses. In most instances, more than a single spinal bone will fracture. This can cause varying degrees of the injury, from minor trauma in osteoporotic patients to severe injuries and complications resulting from major accidents.
You may be surprised to know that spinal fractures are quite common. It is estimated that more than 700,000 spine fractures occur annually in the United States alone. While most serious fractures result from major accidents, minor falls also lead to spinal fractures. There are several other possible causes of spinal fractures, as you will soon find out below.
What Are The Causes Of Spinal Fractures?
As stated already, spinal fractures can result from different scenarios. There are underlying health conditions that can directly contribute to spine fractures or vertebrae compression fractures. Bone loss, which is linked to osteoporosis and menopause, is one of the leading issues that contribute to the problem. Cancer and cancer treatment (chemotherapy), radiation therapy, hypothyroidism and long-term use of corticosteroids can also contribute to bone loss and heightened risk of a spinal fracture.
Other major causes of spinal fractures include serious accidents, falls, heavy blows and other things that exert external force on the spine. When such external force exceeds the ability of the bone to support the load, a fracture or multiple fractures can occur. A compression fracture occurs when the front part of the vertebrae is crushed, but you will experience a burst fracture when the entire vertebrae column breaks. It is important to note that osteoporosis is regarded as the most common risk factor for spinal fractures.
What Are The Symptoms of Spinal Fractures?
Depending on the cause, nature and the severity of the spinal fracture, there are different symptoms and signs the patient can experience. Back pain is the most common of these symptoms. Sudden onset of back pain and chronic, dull pain are frequent symptoms. Height loss is another possible sign, just as postural changes can indicate multiple spinal fractures.
What are the Treatment Options for Spinal Fractures?
The treatment option for spinal fractures depends on the cause of the problem and severity. Broadly, there are two major treatment options: surgical and non-surgical treatments. Non-surgical treatments will include medications and immobilization in a brace or corset for up to 12 weeks. These options can minimize symptoms like pain and prevent deformity. Surgical treatments are often required for severe spinal fractures. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are two major surgical procedures that can correct spinal fractures. The broken vertebrae can also be removed and replaced with a plate, screw or cage.
Spinal fractures can be mild or severe. They can also be caused by different factors. Sudden back pain and postural changes are the most common signs of fractures and should be taken seriously. It is always important to speak with your doctor when you notice any real sign of spinal fracture.