Compression Fractures

About Compression Fractures

The spine is comprised of 24 vertebrae. The main section of each vertebra is a large, round segment called the vertebral body. A compression fracture causes the vertebral body to collapse in height. Severe compression fractures, as can happen in vehicle accidents, can push fragments of bone into the spinal column and impinge upon the spinal cord. The resultant damage can be partial or complete paralysis from the point of fracture and below.

Compression Fracture Symptoms:

  • pain in the neck and back
  • sometimes pain in the hips, abdomen, or thighs
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • weakness
  • losing control of urine or stool

Treatment of Compression Fractures

Some traumatic compression fractures can heal without surgery. The most common treatments are medication to control the pain, decrease daily activity, and bracing. The brace is molded to conform tightly to the body and supports the back, restricting movement. In addition to preventing the wearer from bending forward, the brace holds the spine in a hyperextended state. This takes most of the pressure off the vertebral body, allowing it to heal.

Severe fractures may need surgery to stabilize the vertebrae adjacent to the fracture site. As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications — and since you are dealing with the spine and spinal cord, they can be extremely serious. The complications include:

  • constant pain
  • partial or total paralysis
  • the need for an additional surgery

Compression fractures take a minimum of 3 months to heal completely.

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