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Broken Back

Broken Back

Definition

The bones of the back are called the vertebrae. A vertebral fracture is a break in one of these bones. A vertebral compression fracture occurs when the front part of the bone is squeezed or compressed.

Vertebral Fracture
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Causes

A vertebral compression fracture can be caused by:

  • Osteoporosis —a condition of weakened bones
  • A blow to the back
  • Falling down
  • Landing on your heels when jumping from a height
  • Having major trauma such as a motor vehicle accident

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of vertebral compression fractures include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Use of antipsychotic medications
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Poor mental functioning
  • Poor mobility
  • Poor strength
  • Previous vertebral fracture within the last year

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Mild to severe pain in the middle or lower back
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan

You may be tested to determine if you have osteoporosis. This can be done with a bone mineral density test .

Treatment

Treatment includes:

Prevention

Building strong bones will help prevent fractures. However, most bone strength is attained by women before they are 25 years old. That makes maintaining bone density and strength at older ages even more important.

Follow these prevention guidelines:

  • Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, jogging, or sports such as tennis.
  • Do resistance exercises for arms and legs. This will help to improve your strength and balance.
  • Get plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in your diet. Talk to your doctor if you think you need supplements .
  • If you have osteoporosis, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you had an early menopause , talk to your doctor about this.
  • If you smoke , talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.
  • Remove any obstacles in your home that could cause you to fall. These may include throw rugs or furniture.
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