Tackling Spine Fracture Pain
Osteoporotic spine fractures can hurt like the dickens. Sometimes the pain is so excruciating that just rolling over in bed can send tears streaming down the cheek. I recently took care of a woman suffering with this type of pain after fracturing her spine. She could not even come into the office, so I made a house call. Before contacting me, weeks had passed and her pain was not improving at all. Here is what we did to tackle her spine fracture pain.
The first step was to establish better pain control. Despite taking hydrocodone with acetomenophen, she was still experiencing intolerable pain. I prescribed a little known drug called calcitonin salmon nasal spray. This chemical not only helps strengthen bones but it also helps to relieve bone pain too. Sure enough, within a couple weeks her pain was gradually residing.
Next, I tackled the issue of home safety because the worst thing that could happen to her was another fall. In the bathroom, grab bars and a shower chair were installed. She was also given a cane to reduce her fall risk too. It is hard enough to deal with one spine fracture, let alone two. By preventing a second fall, she had a much better chance of improving quickly.
If her pain had not started to improve, I would have also ordered a spine brace. Additional stability and support can help reduce the pain from a spine fracture. The brace should limit lumbar and thoracic spine flexion because spine flexion increases the amount of stress on weakened spinal bones. For example, a Jewett Spinal brace is one type of brace that can be prescribed to assist in the treatment of a spinal fracture.
Once the pain is better controlled, the environment is safe, and the spine is well supported, then activity can be gradually increased. This particular patient enjoyed walking slowly in the driveway with her husband. They got a pedometer to monitor the amounts of steps she took with each walk and gradually built up the amount she’d walk day by day. If she had elected to see a physical therapist, a physical therapist would have added spine strengthening exercises as tolerated. Exercises that extend the spine and relieve bone stress can be especially helpful for osteoporotic spine fractures. As her activity tolerance and strength have improved, life is finally beginning to normalize.
By taking one step at a time, the pain of a spine fracture can gradually subside. Pain control, safety, and gradual activity introduction are all part of a well balanced treatment plan for an osteoporotic spine fracture.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.