Back pain can be a wake-up call that something is wrong internally. Others may experience this pain as they age. Brittle bones can lead to pain throughout the back. But it’s possible that you may be affected by a compression fracture. Back pain can be a sign that small fractures are developing in the vertebrae. These are the bones that form the spine and these compression fractures are often the result of osteoporosis, which thins the bones. Post-menopausal women over 50 are most prone to osteoporosis, though it can affect anyone. When bones are brittle, soft or weak, tiny fractures in the spine can form when people are doing seemingly harmless tasks – emptying the trash, bending over to pick something up or falling. A spinal compression fracture can occur after several hairline fractures and this can cause a vertebra to collapse.
Spine and vertebrae experts say that nearly two-thirds of people who experience spinal compression fractures are not diagnosed because they believe their pain is a result of aging or arthritis. Getting the proper treatment for osteoporosis can decrease a person’s likeliness of developing another compression fracture, although it will not prevent it altogether. In addition to osteoporosis, certain types of bone cancer can also cause this type of fracture.
Sudden, severe back pain can be an indicator of a spinal compression fracture. Other symptoms can include worsening of this pain when standing, walking, bending or twisting, loss of height and curvature of the spine. Some people may feel relief when they lie down. Pain from these fractures can subside once the bone heals, but it lingers for many. Sometimes, the pain is felt first in the abdomen rather than the back and other times, there might be no pain at all until the condition evolves.
It’s very important to treat the osteoporosis if this is the underlying cause of a compression fracture. Patients may be advised to up their intake of calcium, get more Vitamin D and do strength-training exercises. Certain medications, such as Bisphosphonate drugs, can slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Treatment should focus on managing pain, treating the fracture and preventing further fractures. Many of these fractures will heal with time, assisted by medications for pain and to stabilize bone density. A back brace and rest may also help. The pain can be managed for many people with over-the-counter analgesics. Narcotic painkillers (opioids) or muscle relaxers may be prescribed for a short period of time because of their ability to cause opiate dependency.