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Compression Fractures of the Spine

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Commonly known as a compression fracture, a collapse of the vertebra in the spine “occurs when the normal vertebrae of the spine is compressed to a smaller height.” This type of injury is usually sustained by two groups of individuals. A common occurrence is when one is involved in a traumatic accident, such as a car wreck or a sporting injury. The most common individual affected is one who is already suffering from osteoporosis.

One’s bones begin to thin as osteoporosis becomes prevalent. When the bone gets thinner, it is no longer able to sustain a load. As such, those who are afflicted by this disease may develop a compression fracture without the cause of severe injuries. This can occur even in their daily activities.

The most common symptom of a compression fracture is back pain. Patients who have osteoporosis may notice a curvature of the spine, somewhat resembling a hunchback. This is caused by the vertebrae being compressed in the front. They are usually normal in back. The wedge-shaped appearance causes the spine to curve forward. Patients with such fractures begin to realize a loss in height because of the reduction in size of the spinal column.

My 105-year-old grandmother has recently sustained such a dilemma. Always full of life and humor, however, she will delight the great-grandkids who love to tell her they are rapidly exceeding her in height. She tells them to not get too cocky, as they only appear to be gaining in height quickly as she is decreasing in height at just the same velocity! She notes that pretty soon, bending over to tie her shoes won’t be too difficult, as she is already half-way there! Other symptoms of fractured vertebrae include nerve issues. Due to the compression, undue pressure is placed upon the spinal cord and the nerves.

The best treatment for a compression fracture is prevention. (“Dang it!” noted my grandma. “I should have thought of this when I was 95!”) Treatment is typically geared towards pain relief. Exercise, calcium, and medications are the typical forms of treating osteoporosis. (“Either that, or a shot of whiskey!” joked Grandma.)

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.