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At Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, our well-trained team of spinal surgeons can manage vertebral compression fractures with either surgical or non-surgical treatment options. The course of treatment prescribed depends on the severity of the spinal trauma and the patient's overall health.
Vertebral compression fractures (VCF) occur when the spinal bones or vertebrae collapse or break down as a result of trauma or disease. VCF often affects the thoracic segment of the spine, particularly the lower portion. VCF is most common in patients with osteoporosis. About 25% of postmenopausal women have been affected by VCF in the United States. VCFs are more common in women than in men. People who have experienced a VCF due to osteoporosis are at five times greater risk of developing a second VCF. There may be mild or no symptoms at all associated with a VCF.
Surgical treatment of vertebral compression fractures is considered when a patient has persisting severe pain that cannot be resolved with conservative treatment methods. The two minimally invasive surgical options available for VCF are vertebral augmentation methods, such as kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty. The most suitable method is chosen based on the type of VCF.
Patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery for VCF can expect a speedy return to their routine activities.
In the majority of patients, VCF often resolves within three months without any specific treatment for fracture repair. In these cases, achieving pain relief is important, as it improves mobility and helps to promote comfortable sleep. Taking pain medications and bed rest for a short period of time is sufficient in most VCF cases. A doctor may also advise wearing a brace to control movements and facilitate healing.
While determining the type of VCF, it is important to note the specific portion of the vertebra that is affected.
The symptoms associated with VCFs include:
Osteoporotic VCFs have no symptoms initially and are often found on spinal X-rays made for some other reason. Gradually, the following symptoms may develop:
A careful physical examination and history are often sufficient to diagnose VCF. Imaging tests, such as plain X-rays, computed tomography (CT scan), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may also be used to confirm the presence of a VCF.
The risk factors associated with VCFs are classified into non-modifiable (uncontrollable) risk factors and potentially modifiable (controllable) risk factors.
Non-modifiable risk factors include:
Potentially modifiable or controllable risk factors include:
The three major causes of VCF include:
Alternative medicine and complementary therapies are sometimes considered good options for achieving relief from pain and combating other symptoms associated with osteoporotic VCFs. There is a wide range of treatment available, each with its own unique theory and practice. These treatments include:
Exercise and movement therapies:
As with any alternative medicine or therapy, it is recommended you seek your doctor’s consent before adopting any new exercise regimen.
The prevention of VCFs can be achieved by taking precautions to prevent osteoporosis or slow down its progress. A few tips to help you avoid osteoporosis later in life include:
Do you have unexplained sudden back pain? You can receive information or guidance related to vertebral compression fractures and their treatment from our specially trained spinal surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital.
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