What is Thoracic Spine Compression Fracture?
The bones (vertebrae) in the spine are strong, but they can also fracture due to osteoporosis, a hard fall, physical injury or excessive pressure. When a spinal bone collapses, it is termed a vertebral compression fracture. Such fractures commonly occur in the middle part of the spine, especially in the lower vertebra.
There are many reasons for compression fractures. If a bone is weak it cannot take much pressure. Healthy bones can take a lot of pressure but if the pressure is too much for the vertebrae, one or more bones can fracture. Osteoporosis is a common cause. This malady thins the bones, so that they become too weak to withstand even normal pressure. Trauma can also cause severe or minor fractures. The trauma could result from a jump, fall, car accident of any other event that stresses the spinal bones beyond breaking point.
Common symptoms are pain in the arms, legs and back. There will also be numbness or weakness if the nerves are injured. If the bone thins gradually, the pain will be milder. Or, no pain will be experienced till the bone breaks.
To diagnose a fracture, you need to see a health care provider. The doctor will ask about your complete medical history and advise a physical examination. Since there could be many causes for the pain, proper diagnosis is necessary to identify the exact problem.
The physical exam will check the part where you have pain such as legs, arms, lower back, neck etc. An X-ray will confirm if a fracture exists. A CAT scan will show if the fracture is stable. A neurological exam will confirm if spinal nerves have been damaged as this will affect your reflexes and body movement. A nuclear bone scan can also be ordered to find out the age of a fracture. This is useful for detecting osteoporosis.
Treatments include bracing, decreasing activity and pain medications. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.