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Vertebral Compression Fractures

Treating Vertebral fractures

A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) is a condition wherein the vertebral body (the column of bones in your spine) collapses or fractures. Vertebral fractures usually occur in the thoracic spinal region, i.e., the middle portion of the spine. When the vertebrae collapse, you suffer from severe back pain, spinal deformity, and loss of height.

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  • Sudden back pain.
  • The pain increases while standing or walking.
  • The pain decreases while lying down.
  • Inability to move properly.
  • Gradual loss of height.
  • Spinal deformities.
  • Disability.

Potential Causes

  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones) is the most common root cause of vertebral compression fractures. People with severe osteoporosis may suffer from VCFs due to simple activities like lifting an object, sneezing, or climbing stairs. People with moderate osteoporosis may suffer from VCFs because of moderate or severe trauma, such as falling down, lifting heavy objects, etc.
  • Trauma: You may suffer from VCFs because of heavy trauma or injury to your spinal column, usually due to automobile accidents or sports injuries.
  • Metastatic Tumors: The growth of an abnormal group of cells in your spine may eventually weaken and fracture the vertebrae, leading to VCFs. Metastatic tumors are usually the root cause of VCFs amongst individuals younger than 55 without a history of osteoporosis or physical trauma.

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During your initial consultation, Dr. McHugh discusses your symptoms, reviews your medical history, and runs several physical tests to examine your muscle strength and mobility. After the physical examinations, he recommends a series of advanced imaging tests to diagnose the severity and root cause of VCFs.

  • Imaging Tests: Dr. McHugh recommends a series of imaging tests, including x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, to visualize the structure of the vertebrae, revealing problems like bone misalignment, the formation of bone spurs, disc degeneration, etc.
  • Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry: This is the standard test to examine the bone mineral density and identify osteoporosis, one of the most common causes of VCFs.

Risk Factors

  • Patients with osteoporosis.
  • Postmenopausal women.
  • Individuals over 55.
  • Medical history of osteoporotic VCFs.
  • Occupations that necessitate heavy lifting.
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Dr. McHugh specializes in the most advanced and cutting-edge treatments for vertebral compression fractures. He aims to treat VCFs with non-surgical procedures, only recommending surgery when all other treatment options fail.

  • Medications: Dr. McHugh may recommend combining over-the-counter pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxants to provide immediate pain relief and treat nerve/bone pain. He may also recommend opioids for the temporary relief of acute pain.
  • Back Bracing: Dr. McHugh may provide back braces to limit the movement of the fractured vertebrae, helping you navigate spine-related movements without increasing the pain.
  • Bisphosphonates: Also known as bone-strengthening drugs, bisphosphonates stabilize your vertebrae by restoring lost bone tissues. This is one of the best non-surgical treatments because it provides long-term pain relief and minimizes the risk of recurrence.
  • Surgery: If non-surgical treatments fail to yield the desired results, Dr. McHugh may recommend minimally-invasive surgical procedures (vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty) that use bone cement to stabilize the fractured vertebrae.

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