A compression fracture occurs if the spongy portion of the bone, or its interior, is crushed. This commonly occurs in the vertebral body. When the bones of the vertebra collapse, some of the bone fragments may be displaced outwards. As this happens, the nerves or spinal cord may be compressed or injured. Collapse of the vertebral body can significantly affect the alignment of the spine. Deformities occur which bend the spine forward.
Causes of Compression Fracture
The most common cause of a compression fracture is osteoporosis. It commonly affects people as they age, and is usually most severe in post-menopausal women. Severe trauma can also lead to compression fractures, even in healthy bone. Bones into which cancer has spread may also collapse. This is due in part to the loss of the normal architecture of the bone. These fractures are termed pathological fractures.
Signs and Symptoms of Compression Fracture
Pain in the portion of the spine which is affected is the most common symptom. There may be associated muscles spasms. Loss of height and abnormal curvature of the spine occurs. If the spinal cord or nerve roots are compressed, varying degrees of weakness or numbness in the arms or legs may occur. If the fibers supplying the bowel and bladder are affected, difficulty urinating and constipation can occur.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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