Orlando Compression Fracture Specialists
A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) also known as a spinal compression fracture (SCF) is a fracture of one or more vertebrae due to trauma, a fall, or a medical condition such as osteoporosis. While the majority of VCFs can be treated with conservative measures such as rest, activity modification, and pain medications, some may require interventional pain management. Interventional pain management procedures include injection therapy, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, and kyphoplasty.
What Is a Compression Fracture and Who Can Get Them?
A compression fracture is a type of bone fracture where one or more bones have experienced a collapse due to having too much pressure exerted on them. This can be caused by pre-existing conditions, such as osteoporosis and bone cancer, that weaken the bones or can happen to those with arguably healthy bones due to high-impact accidents like falls or car collisions. Elderly individuals, those with weakened immune systems, and people undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy can be more prone to vertebral compression fractures than others. While some fractures require invasive surgery or immobilization methods to heal, many compression fractures may be able to go untreated with only medications and physical therapy, as long as they are monitored carefully.
Symptoms of a Compression Fracture
Compression fractures are small, painful cracks in the bones of the spine during which the vertebrae collapse. These fractures usually occur in the thoracic and lumbar spine and can be caused by bending or twisting motions, falls, or diseases that cause weakened bones such as osteoporosis. Symptoms of a compression fracture can include pain and/or tenderness around the area of impact, decreased range of motion in the back, poor posture due to stiffness, muscle spasms in the back caused by an inability to hold the neutral posture for long periods, difficulty walking and/or bending over, and radiating pain or numbness that extends down one leg or both legs. If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to one of our doctors as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment options.
How Are Compression Fractures Treated?
Compression fracture treatment generally begins with injection therapy to reduce inflammation and pain, along with manual therapy and physical exercises. When this route fails, nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation, or kyphoplasty may be recommended. The most invasive option is kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive surgical procedure where surgeons fill the space created by the fracture with a cement-like material after inserting a balloon into the bone. While this approach can rightly alarm patients upon hearing of its intensity, it does provide significant back pain improvement within as little as one-week post-surgery in many cases.
Injection Therapy for Vertebral Compression Fractures (VCFs)
The use of injections for treating VCFs has been increasing in recent years due to their effectiveness in reducing pain levels. Injection therapies include trigger point injections, epidural steroid injections, and facet joint injections. Trigger point injections are used to treat muscle spasms that often accompany VCFs by numbing the muscle and blocking the release of chemicals that cause inflammation. Epidural steroid injections are used to reduce inflammation in the spine by injecting steroids directly into the epidural space around the spinal cord. Facet joint injections involve injecting anesthetic into the joints of the vertebrae which helps block pain signals sent to the brain from those joints.
Spinal Nerve Blocks for SCFs
Nerve blocks help block pain signals sent from damaged nerves to the brain by numbing them with a local anesthetic or other drugs. These blocks can be used either as diagnostic tools to determine what type of treatment is necessary or as treatments themselves if they provide longer-term relief than injections alone. Nerve blocks can be done at multiple levels including cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions depending on where your SCF is located.
Radiofrequency Ablation for VCFs
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure that uses targeted heat energy to destroy nerve tissue that sends pain signals from damaged nerves to your brain. This helps reduce or eliminate chronic pain due to nerve damage caused by VCFs without causing damage to surrounding tissue or muscles. RFA is typically done in combination with other treatments such as physical therapy or medication management and is usually successful in providing long-term relief from VCF pain symptoms.
Kyphoplasty for SCFs
Kyphoplasty is an innovative medical procedure used to treat spinal compression fractures. This minimally invasive technique uses medical-grade cement to stabilize fractured vertebrae and provide symptomatic relief for painful spinal conditions. It can be done in an outpatient setting and the effects of treatment can be seen immediately. Unlike some alternatives, kyphoplasty preserves spine mobility while providing effective pain relief. Moreover, because the recovery time is quick, patients can resume normal activities without significant interruption. On the whole, kyphoplasty is a powerful solution for relieving pain from spinal compression fractures with minimal discomfort or downtime.
Vertebral compressive fractures can cause intense chronic back pains that often require interventional care for effective symptom management and long-term relief. Treatment options may include injection therapy, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, kyphoplasty, and spine surgery depending on your case and needs as determined by your doctor or specialist. If you have been diagnosed with a vertebral compressive fracture and need help managing your symptoms, speak with one of our pain medicine experts for more information about available interventional treatment options today!