In Honor of World Osteoporosis Day: Don’t Let a Fracture go Undiagnosed!

Pam Flores @phflores Health Guide
  • In honor of World Osteoporosis Day, we wanted to talk about the large numbers of fractures that occur each year and how many go undiagnosed or untreated.


    The most common of these fractures are vertebral compression fractures of the spine.  Over two-thirds of these types of factures go undiagnosed, and these types of fractures represent more than the total of hip and wrist fractures combined.


    Since fractures are the hallmark of osteoporosis, it would be good to know what to do if you should sustain one of these often-occurring breaks.


    Some fractures cause pain and some don't.  If you have pain in your spine, that doesn't lessen or go away, you need to have it evaluated.  Some of these fractures appear years after they've occurred, but some produce immediate pain, that doesn't lessen and those need to be diagnosed.  Some of this depends on the type of fracture you sustain.  So let's look at the type of fractures, that can occur, and the treatments available for them, so we can reduce this number of two-thirds out of 700,000 that occur annually.

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    Causes of These Fractures:

    • Osteoporosis
    • Tumors
    • Injury/trauma to the back
    • Cancer/chemotherapy

    Diagnostics That Detect These Fractures:

    • DXA scan
    • DXA scan with a VFA (vertebral fracture assessment) a secondary picture taken during your DXA which measures the height of each vertebra in your spine to detect abnormal shape and fractures.
    • X-rays
    • CAT Scans
    • MRIs

    Types of  Compression Fractures:

    • Wedge Fracture:  this type of fracture looks like a wedge.  The vertebras between the discs in your spine compress on one end making it look similar to a v-shape or wedge.
    • Burst Fracture:  this type of fracture looks like those seen when someone sustains a major injury where the vertebra crushes across the bone; not in one area like the wedge fracture.

    Types of Fracture Repair:

    • Conservative Treatment:  this treatment involves non-surgical intervention, but employs things like, physical therapy, specific strengthening exercises, bracing, epidural cortisone injection - into the epidural space of the spine - and bed rest.  If this approach does not make the fracture heal, or cause the pain to diminish, then you might have to consider surgical procedures.
    • Vertebroplasty:  this treatment is used by inserting a bone-tamp into the fracture, after local anesthesia, and a bone cement is injected into it to stabilize the bone to promote healing.
    • Kyphoplasty:  treatment is very similar to vertebroplasty in that it uses the same type of bone cement, but after the bone tamp is inserted, a balloon is inflated inside the bone which restores the height loss from the bone/vertebra compression.  This procedure is good to prevent kyphosis, a rounding of the spine in a forward direction that may cause a dowagers hump.
    • Spinal Fusion:  This treatment should be reserved for a last resort.  If the above treatments are not indicated, for you, and you have nerve involvement that needs to be repaired, then this may be a procedure some might have.

    Today is World Osteoporosis Day, so do all you can to reduce the number of fractures that occur, by implementing The National Osteoporosis' safe movement techniques with osteoporosis and osteopenia, and don't wait to see your doctor if you have any painful symptoms in the area of your spine.  These fractures can occur from something as simple as a cough, bending forward, or lifting something slightly heavy; so don't ignore any symptoms that don't go away.  If we are diligent in monitoring painful spines changes, and notifying our physicians ASAP, then maybe we CAN reduce this astronomical high number of undiagnosed or untreated spinal compression fractures.


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    Statistical Sources:



    Statistics on Compression Fractures:  Kyphon International 2008


    Mediline Plus, National Institute of Health, Alan Mozes, October 15, 2010



Published On: October 20, 2010