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A spinal fracture is a crack or break in one or more vertebrae, the interlocking bones that make up the spine and surround the spinal cord. Spinal fractures occur when more weight is placed on the vertebrae than the bone is able to support, causing it to crack beneath the pressure.
Though spinal fractures are typically caused by high-impact accidents or collisions, certain underlying health conditions such as osteoporosis can make this type of injury more likely in day-to-day life. Age also plays a role in spinal fracture—bones can become thinner and more brittle—especially true if one has osteoporosis.
Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis, and according to research, by age 80; approximately 40% will have had a spinal fracture. The spinal fractures that are most common in osteoporosis patients are known as vertebral compression fractures. An estimated 750,000 Americans are affected by vertebral compression fractures each year.
A spinal fracture occurs when more force is applied to the vertebrae than the bone can support, causing it to crack or break. In healthy adults, spinal fractures are typically the result of high impact, such as that experienced during a car crash, sports injury, or serious fall.
However, certain pre-existing health conditions can make it more likely that you experience spinal fractures in day to day life. osteoporosis, for example, puts individuals at a much higher risk of experiencing spinal fracture. The type of spinal fracture that most commonly affects osteoporosis patients is known as vertebral compression fracture. In these situations, osteoporosis significantly decreases bone density, causing the vertebrae to collapse from even low impact activities, such as walking, sneezing, or standing up.
According to the Mayfield Clinic, the leading causes of spinal fractures are:
The following risk factors can increase the likelihood of a spinal fracture:
The following tools may be used by your doctor before arriving at a spinal fracture diagnosis:
The following symptoms may be the signs of spinal fractures:
Spinal fractures can most often be healed by 6-8 weeks of rest, which may or may not include the use of pain medications, back braces, and physical therapy. Cases of spinal fractures that do not heal within 6-8 weeks of rest may require surgical intervention.
The following tips can help make living with spinal fracture easier:
No screening is conducted for spinal fractures. However, if you are a patient over the age of 50, you may want to undergo testing for osteoporosis (a large risk factor for spinal fracture) at the recommendation of your physician.
Many cases of spinal fracture, such as those brought on by acute trauma, are difficult to prevent. However, cases of spinal fracture brought about by osteoporosis may be prevented by monitoring yourself for symptoms of osteoporosis and seeking treatment if and when you see those symptoms arise. Early treatment for osteoporosis is key to preventing the continued loss of bone density.
Most cases of spinal fracture are able to heal with 6-8 weeks of rest. During the rest period, patients will be asked to limit their mobility by remaining in bed, decreasing their activity level, or by using a spine brace. Depending on the severity of the fracture and the comfort level of the patient, doctors may or may not prescribe pain management medications. For more information on specific pain management medications, visit thirdAGE’s Pain Management Condition Center.
Cases that do not heal within 6-8 weeks of rest period may require surgical intervention. The following are the surgical options available for the treatment of spinal fracture:
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the following supplements may help to increase bone density and decrease the likelihood of a spinal fracture:
Alternative treatments may also be used to manage pain associated with spinal fractures. Alternative methods of pain management include:
If you are caring for a loved one with a spinal fracture, consider the following tips:
Contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:
To find an orthopaedic surgeon in your area, visit this site.
To find a licensed chiropractor in your area, visit this site.
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
For more information on spinal fractures, visit
For more Information on osteoporosis and spinal fractures, visit:
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