Back pain is extremely common, affecting up to 80% of the population at some point. Compression fractures are one potential cause. Also known as vertebral compression fractures, these injuries happen when one or more bones in your spine weaken and crumble.
While most anyone can experience a compression fracture, factors such as osteoporosis, low body weight, older age, and susceptibility to falling increase your risk.
Interventional pain specialist Dr. William Yancey at Yancey Pain & Spine in Houston and The Woodlands, Texas, takes an integrative approach to diagnosing and treating back pain using a variety of techniques, from medications to minimally invasive procedures to help you avoid extensive surgery.
Dr. Yancey wants you to know the signs of a compression fracture, as well as possible treatments.
Back pain can develop from a broad range of causes, a compression fracture among them. In fact, back pain is the primary symptom of a spinal compression fracture.
The pain is so subtle in some people that it’s barely noticeable. For others, it’s quite severe throughout. The pain may also strike very suddenly and sharply, or start out relatively mild and then worsen over time. Regardless of the intensity early on, it’s likely to worsen when you:
- Bend down to pick something up
- Lift a large object, such as a suitcase or groceries
- Lift a mattress while changing sheets
- Make a misstep or slip on a rug
- Stand or walk
Spine curvature and height loss
If you have multiple compression fractures, you may notice visible changes in your spine. Each fracture in your spine makes it a bit shorter, and one fracture left untreated may increase your risk of additional breaks. Eventually, if several vertebrae collapse, you appear shorter in height.
A compression fracture can also lead to a curvature in your back. This happens because collapsed vertebrae create a wedge shape, making the spine bend slightly forward. As this develops, your body will try to adapt, fueling pain in your back and neck.
Once your spine has shortened, you can experience additional problems, such as damaged nerves that control parts of digestion. For example, you might lose the ability to store and get rid of waste like normal.
As a result, you can experience bowel accidents and constipation, along with a reduced appetite and weight loss.
Hip pain can also happen as your stature shortens. Your rib cage moves closer to your hip bones, creating painful friction. And if your compression fracture or fractures are severe, your lungs may no longer function normally, leading to breathing problems.
Compression fracture treatment
Dr. Yancey takes an engineering approach to relieve pain while restoring function, height, and stability when you have a vertebral compression fracture. He utilizes a combination of proven therapies and specialized techniques that are tailored to each individual patient to obtain the best outcomes.
The treatment plan selected by Dr. Yancey depends on your specific condition. Relatively mild fractures can often be successfully treated with specialized braces along with focused physical therapy. More advanced or unstable fractures can be permanently treated with a minimally invasive procedure known as vertebral augmentation. During this procedure, also known as kyphoplasty, much of the height loss associated with the fracture can be reversed, and the fracture can be stabilized resulting in immediate pain relief.
If you’re experiencing ongoing or severe back pain or wish to learn more about compression fracture treatments, call the Houston or The Woodlands, Texas, office of Yancey Pain & Spine, or request an appointment with Dr. Yancey online. You can also send our team a message here on the website.