Vertebral fracture

When the vertebrae collapse

doctor consultation

Vertebral fracture: Osteoporosis can be the cause

The metabolism-related skeletal disease osteoporosis leads, among other things, to a reduction in bone mass and increased susceptibility to bone fractures. The so-called “bone density” describes the ratio of mineralised bone mass to defined bone volume. In osteoporosis, both density and mass are reduced. In the case of reduced bone density, a small amount of force is often sufficient to cause fractures, especially in the spine and neck of the femur.

Prof. Helmut Minne explains in the video, how severe the pain can be for those affected. Therefore rapid pain relief is given a very high priority in the treatment of patients with vertebral fractures. 

The most common vertebral fractures: Fracture of the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae

The vertebrae of the thoracic or lumbar region are usually affected by an osteoporotic vertebral fracture. Normally, vertebral fractures involve the influence of large forces, unless: The vertebrae are compromised, for example, due to a reduction in bone density as a result of osteoporosis or by the onset of bone tumours or metastases in oncological diseases.

Osteoporosis and its consequences for the spine

Symptoms for a vertebral fracture

Signs of fracture of a vertebra may include:

  • Pain due to pressure, percussion and compression in the affected section
  • Elevation or palpable gap in the spinous process
  • Limited range of spinal movement
  • Adaptive posture Hardening of the muscles

If the spinal cord is affected, there may be associated disorders below the level of the fracture or neurological deficits, for example:

  • Signs of paralysis
  • Bladder and rectal control disorders
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Hyper-elevated or weakened reflexes

Vertebral fractures can occasionally be completely symptom-free!

Treatment of vertebral fractures

A vertebral fracture is treated conservatively or surgically depending on the type of fracture, extent of damage and impairment of the patient. The most suitable therapy depends on the individual case, for example, whether the fracture is stable or unstable. But also the age of the patient, their overall condition, the presence or extent of chronic pain and their personal preferences play a role.

Conservative Treatment

In the case of a stable fracture, conservative treatment is used initially as a rule.

After acute, stable osteoporotic vertebral fractures, the DVO recommends in its guideline, among other things, the use of a spine straightening orthosis (information at www.dv-osteologie.org). The Spinomed back orthoses from medi are therefore an important therapeutic component in osteoporosis therapy

Surgical intervention

In osteoporotic vertebral fractures, the fractured vertebrae can be surgically stabilised. The following procedures are used for this. 

Vertebroplasty
Bone cement is injected into the fractured vertebra, which distributes throughout the healthy bone structure. Osteoporosis medication (e.g. bisphosphonates) can also have an effect on these intact structures.

Kyphoplasty
In this procedure, the surgeon inserts a balloon into the fractured vertebra. This is then filled with bone cement. This partially straightens and stabilises the vertebra. In contrast to vertebroplasty, the remaining bone structure in the vertebral body is destroyed by the balloon.   

Recovery time for vertebral fractures

The course and prognosis of a vertebral fracture are usually good. The decisive factor is the extent to which nerve tissue was affected by the fracture. For a stable vertebral fracture, a recovery period of a few weeks to a few months can usually be expected. In the case of unstable fractures, the recovery process may be delayed accordingly. 

Health personnel will make the diagnosis and can prescribe compression stockings, e.g. from medi if necessary.

Your medical retailer will fit them individually for you.

Diagnosis & treatment

Treating back pain

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Back pain

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Back brace for the treatment of osteoporosis

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