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What You Need to Know If You Have a Spinal Compression Fracture

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If you have an unexplained spinal compression fracture, there are a few important things you will need to check into so you can get the proper treatment for the condition. Without an obvious injury, you likely have an underlying condition and, possibly, supposed incidental findings that could cause your fracture and problems in the future. Here are a few things you need to be aware of and check into. 

Medical conditions that can cause spinal compression fractures

There are several medical conditions that can cause a vertebra in the spine to compress to the point that it fractures.

Osteoporosis: The most commonly known medical condition that causes this is osteoporosis. With this condition, the weakening of bones causes the vertebrae in the spine to break. With this progressive condition, there is an obvious and unnatural curve in the spine as time goes on due to the weakening and breaking of various vertebrae. You can get a bone-density scan done to determine whether or not you have osteoporosis. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you'll need to take medication to strengthen your bones so you can avoid additional fractures in the future.

Hyperparathyroidism: There are other conditions that can weaken bones to the point that they break, including hyperparathyroidism. This is a condition that causes the parathyroid gland to release too much parathyroid hormone. The role of this hormone is to control the amount of calcium there is in your blood stream. Too much of this hormone causes an excessive amount of calcium to be leached from the bones. This is caused by the forming of an adenoma (tumor) in a parathyroid gland. 

Cancer: Cancer of the parathyroid gland, skin, and kidney can also cause too much calcium to be leached from bones. Even if you have treatment for your spinal compression fracture, you would remain susceptible for future problems with your spine if you do not get treated for the underlying cause of the fracture.

Therefore, it's extremely important to get a complete physical and extensive medical testing to determine the cause of your unexplained spinal compression fracture. 

Medical conditions that can be caused by spinal compression fractures

After you've determined what has caused your fracture, it's important to understand that the fracture itself may cause another medical condition in the future. Syringomyelia is a condition that can be caused by the blockage of the flow of cerebralspinal fluid, and this can happen when the spinal cord is damaged in some way. The spinal cord sits within the spinal column. Any fractures in the spine can damage the spinal cord and cause scarring. The scarring can disrupt or block the fluid, which can cause the fluid to create a pocket or cyst called a syrinx. A syrinx is a tell-tale sign of syringomyelia. 

Research shows that post-traumatic syringomyelia can occur 3 months to 32 years after a spinal-cord injury. Syringomyelia is a progressive condition that can get quite serious and lead to paralysis and loss of autonomic bodily functions of your bladder and bowels. Symptoms to watch for in the future include stiffness, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, or pain in your back, neck, legs, and arms. You may also feel numbness and pain in your face and neck.

As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, schedule a cine MRI through your spine surgeon or neurologist. A cine MRI is a recorded video to capture the fluidity of your cerebrospinal fluid. If a syrinx is found, it can be treated with surgery or a shunt to drain the cyst. If your spine compression fracture is severe, it's a good idea to have regular cine MRIs done, as spinal cord and nerve damage are often irreversible. 

Talk to a professional such as Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates to learn more.