Having an aching back is one of the most common medical complaints, but knowing you’re your back is hurting isn’t enough. You need to know what’s behind your pain in order to make sure that you’re treating it appropriately. Though most people assume that back pain is either muscle strain or a herniated disc, for approximately 700,000 Americans each year it turns out to be an after effect of osteoporosis known as spine compression fractures. The painful condition goes undiagnosed far too frequently, and that’s a real problem because when it’s not diagnosed, it’s left untreated – and that means that it can get worse.
Spine compression fractures are extremely common in postmenopausal women. They occur when your bones grow weaker, which is part and parcel of osteoporosis. When the vertebral bones stop being able to support the body’s weight, it starts to cause a compression that actually reduces the height of impacted bone by 15-to-20 percent. In most cases the fractures occur in the upper back. Though they can cause significant, chronic pain, loss of muscle conditioning and a change in the patient’s overall height, they don’t generally lead to spinal cord or nerve damage. The most common symptoms that patients report include one or more of the following:
- Sudden onset pain in the back
- Pain worsens when standing or walking
- Lying down face up reduces intensity of pain
- Spinal mobility diminishes
- Loss of height
One in four patients diagnosed with spinal compression fractures are postmenopausal women, though the condition can afflict anybody. It is one of the conditions suspected whenever patients over the age of 50 report sudden onset back pain, and for women the age threshold drops to 45. The condition should not be ignored, as treatments are available, and failing to address the problem can lead to a rapid worsening.
The treatment for spinal compression fracture depends upon the extent of the problem and the patient’s overall condition. As is always the case at our New Jersey spine practice, we always try to treat ack pain using conservative, non-surgical approaches. These include over-the-counter pain medications, heat and/or ice, and rest, with a slow return to activities. If these approaches fail to provide relief, surgical treatments are available, with the most common type of surgery offer being kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty. Where vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that stabilizes the bone by injecting low viscosity cement directly into the area where the vertebrae had collapsed, kyphoplasty stops the pain while restoring some or all of the lost vertebral height through the additional use of a small balloon prior to the injection of the cement. Both procedures are considered vertebral augmentation.
If you are experiencing back pain that believe may be a result of osteoporosis and resulting bone weakening, the sooner you make an appointment with our New Jersey spine practice, the sooner we can put you back on the road to health.