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Cracking Down on Spinal Fractures: March 20, 2014

Imagine breaking a bone from something as trivial as a sneeze. It can and does happen, to mostly older adults with osteoporosis.

“Patients with osteoporosis - they can have a minor trauma - maybe they sit down vigorously on a sofa, or step off of a curb, maybe they didn’t see the bottom of a step, they’re carrying a heavy bag of groceries and they can sustain a fracture to parts of the spine,” says Dr. Paul Fuchs, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Different than a high velocity break; frail, brittle bones don’t require much force to hit their breaking point. Most times it’s the back that takes the brunt, in the form of a compression fracture.

“You think of maybe a piece of Styrofoam and you press down on it that’s what happens to the bone. It’s loss of integrity throughout the bone, a loss of stability of the bone, that’s what causes the fracture,” says Dr. Fuchs.

The pain typically occurs near the break itself, most commonly near the waistline, mid-chest or lower back. People find it gets worse standing or sitting for a long period.
“They walk in with obvious pain, obvious difficulty standing, obvious difficulty sitting, any small maneuvers such as walking, you can see the patients in significant pain,” says Dr. Fuchs.

Age is the fueling force behind most compression fractures- but there’s also a long list of diseases that increase fracture risk as well as medications that are known to increase risk. All reasons why it’s important to monitor bone quality.

“We will order a bone density test to at least get a baseline quality of their bone and then commonly be able to start some type of treatment to improve the hardness of the bone or the density and hopefully prevent fractures.

Cracking down on bone health is the best way to keep your spine strong.