Spinal fractures may occur for several reasons, including osteoporosis, cancer or trauma. No matter the original cause, back or neck pain is a main symptom. The pain is usually very sharp or stabbing and located in the lower to mid back, though it can also be felt at the front of the spine in some cases.
Pain clinics can treat compression fractures with one of a few methods. While less invasive methods are attempted as a first resort, surgery is necessary in some cases. Most patients will have success with the methods mentioned here.
1. Pain medication and rest. This may sound overly simple, but in individuals with healthy systems, the body is often able to repair itself. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the pain and the rest allows the spine to heal.
The majority of compression fractures will take 2-3 months to heal with rest. The doctor may recommend wearing a brace, but this is usually limited as it can result in weaker bones overall. If bed rest does not help the spine or if pain is still very severe after eight weeks, doctors may recommend a more invasive procedure.
2. Vertebroplasty. This outpatient procedure is done under local anesthesia in most cases. Some patients require general anesthesia and may end up staying longer in the hospital, depending on how many vertebra are affected.
Vertebroplasty involves injecting bone cement into the crushed or collapsed vertebra while the patient is lying face down on the table. The cement freezes any small particles into place and stabilizes the spine. This can be used on several vertebra, as needed.
The procedure has a 90% success rate, though if it fails, the method may be repeated. It is also low risk for complications and patients will be able to resume normal activities once they have recovered from the injections.
3. Kyphoplasty. This procedure is very similar to verebroplasty, but is best for vertebra that have collapsed too much to be restored with only bone cement. Instead, a small balloon is placed inside the vertebra and is carefully inflated to lift the bone and create a space. This is usually done under local anesthetic in an outpatient clinic.
Cement is injected into the space made by the balloon to create a sturdier support for the bone. Again, this may be repeated in several areas, if necessary. The end result is added height and stability in the fractured area.
Each of these more invasive methods requires bed rest for at least 24 hours after the injections. However, the recovery time is fairly rapid and pain relief occurs in at least 90% of cases. No heavy lifting or strenuous activity is recommended for at least six weeks. Most patients find that they have better mobility than before the procedure, in addition to reduced pain levels.
Pain clinics can work with patients to choose the best option for the patient’s needs. X-rays or an MRI will be necessary to get a better idea of the extent of the fracture and to determine which treatment method will work best.