Like dams that hold back raging rivers or steel beams that hold up skyscrapers, one vulnerability is all it takes to compromise your spine. Spinal compression fractures are one of the most common threats to your spine’s health, affecting nearly 1 million people yearly.
That’s why we prioritize treatments that quickly reinforce the most important bones in your body.
Here, Dr. Raul Lopez and our team at the West Texas Pain Institute walk you through the basics of one such treatment and how it can help you bounce back from fractures in your spine.
Why fractures happen in your spine
Of all the places in your body where you need strong bones, your spine probably makes the top of the list. Each vertebra stacks on top of the other to create a strong column of protection for the vital nerves that make up your central nervous system.
Unfortunately, vertebrae are just as likely as any other bone to fracture. One type of fracture that occurs in your spine is a compression fracture. Compression fractures develop when hairline cracks weaken the bone and cause it to collapse.
The result is significant pain, stiffness, decreased mobility, and even problems with your posture. In the worst cases or if left untreated, compression fractures can lead to difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels.
Compression fractures typically affect the thoracic (middle) part of your spine, particularly the lower thoracic area. The most common risk factor is osteoporosis — a condition that weakens your bones — but compression factors can also result from trauma, such as a fall or car accident, or a tumor.
How vertebroplasty can help
If your back problems stem from a compression fracture in your spine, we often turn to vertebroplasty. This minimally invasive procedure quickly and effectively repairs spinal compression fractures by sealing the fractures with surgical cement.
During your treatment, you lie comfortably on your front or your side. You’re typically awake during the procedure, but we can administer mild sedation if necessary.
With the help of a special X-ray called fluoroscopy, Dr. Lopez carefully guides a needle into your compressed vertebra. Then, he injects the bone cement to fill the cracks. As the cement hardens, your spine regains its former fortitude.
We perform vertebroplasty on an outpatient basis, but you’ll spend a few hours in our recovery area immediately after the procedure. We recommend that you rest at home for at least the next two days, and then gradually increase your activity levels.
Other than some potential discomfort at the injection site, you shouldn’t experience any post-procedure side effects. If you do, you can manage them with conservative interventions such as ice packs and over-the-counter pain medication.
Tips for avoiding future fractures
In addition to providing treatments that help you recover from spinal compression fractures, we also want to equip you with some practical strategies to avoid debilitating pain in the future. Some of the best ways to prevent spinal compression fractures include:
- Taking calcium supplements
- Getting enough vitamin D
- Stopping smoking
- Focusing on strengthening your back muscles
It’s also important that you recognize and manage your risk for spinal compression fractures — this is especially true if you’re an older adult with osteoporosis. Be sure to take any medication you’ve been prescribed for osteoporosis and be diligent in avoiding falls.
Want more information about vertebroplasty? We’d love to talk with you. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our El Paso, Texas, office today.