Compression Fractures


In some cases, a patient will seek care from a chiropractic physician for back pain that ends up being the result of a spinal compression fracture. Compression fractures account for roughly 47% of all spinal fractures, making it the most common spinal fracture. Generally, these fractures are located in the lumbar spine, beginning at T12 (thoracic vertebra 12) and through L2 (lumbar vertebra 2). Typically, the pain will begin at the location of the compression fracture and radiate around the body towards the abdomen. It is rare if this fracture causes neurological problems. Osteoporosis is commonly the generating cause of a compression fracture, especially in adults over the age of 40. If osteoporosis is present, a very minor injury is all that is required for a compression fracture to occur. If the patient is young and presents with no osteoporosis, a thorough physical exam and health history, as well as diagnostic imaging, should be able to yield a diagnosis as to what caused the compression fracture. Sometimes the cause can be infection, a lymphoma or myeloma and metastasis. Lab testing and more sophisticated imaging, such as an MRI, will be able to provide a better picture as to the pathology of the fracture. Plain films may be able to show the chiropractor if the fracture is an old injury or a new one.

The Healing Period

If the patient presents with a simple compression fracture with no serious underlying cause, chiropractic care can be helpful in treating the injury. Immobilization is a priority in the beginning phase of care to promote proper healing. For younger patients this period can last 4 weeks or longer; in older patients immobilization may be required for 6 to 8 weeks. Even following the healing process, it is expected that there will be some mild deformity to the spinal area that sustained the fracture. After the healing period, if appropriate, chiropractic manipulative care can provide beneficial results for the patient. Exercises, both weight-bearing and aerobic, may be performed to help strengthen both the musculature of the spine as well as the spinal bones themselves. This type of rehab will be done in the clinical setting but also may be taught to the patient to be performed at home for maximum success. This at-home care can be quite beneficial for the patient, it teaches them how to better take care of their spine with stretches and strengthening exercises. If the compression is more severe and it is discovered that there is also a disc herniation present with some neurological complaints, the chiropractic physician will refer the patient to an orthopedic specialist for treatment.

References Cited in this Article