Vertebral body fracture - a misjudged widespread disease

Vertebral bodies can break, and not only with strong impact of violence, but also without external force in small movements. As a result, the stability of the spine suffers. Every year about 227, 000 people suffer a vertebral fracture. Women and men are affected in the ratio 10: 6.

Vertebral body fracture: possible symptoms

Sudden back pain may also be an indication of a vertebral fracture such as:

  • a more or less severe back pain
  • pain on movement
  • deformities
  • bruising
  • bruises

If a vertebra of the cervical spine is broken, head movements are possible only under pain or the head remains even in a forced posture.

If the spinal cord has been injured, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Urinary and fecal incontinence
  • paralysis
  • numbness
  • in extreme cases a paraplegia

With a previously damaged bone structure due to an underlying disease, the vertebral fracture sometimes goes unnoticed. Only the constant, tormenting back pain leads to its discovery.

Causes of a vertebral body fracture

Healthy vertebral bodies can break under heavy force, such as occurs in a car accident with high impact speeds. Even falls of all kinds, for example, in sports such as horseback riding, skiing, paragliding hold a fracture risk.

Sometimes, however, vertebrae already break without external force in light everyday stress and sometimes even without those affected notice it immediately. This is the case, for example:

  • Osteoporosis, the most common consequence of which is vertebral fracture
  • bone tumors
  • skeletal metastases
  • Bone inflammation (osteitis)
  • Bone softening (osteomalacia)
  • rheumatic diseases

This is how the diagnosis is made

The earlier a vertebral fracture is treated, the greater the chance of preventing irreparable consequences. After talking with the doctor and following a physical examination with checking the nerve functions, the injured spine area is X-rayed in maximum flexion and extension.

Another computed tomography (CT) scan shows whether the fractured vertebral body restricts the spinal canal. Optionally, a second imaging method, the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used. This makes intervertebral discs, ligaments and spinal cord visible.

Therapy for vertebral body fracture

The first step is pain relief with suitable preparations. Other conservative measures are:

  • Physiotherapy to restore mobility
  • relaxed bed rest
  • Under certain circumstances, a daily to be worn back corset or support corsets

However, treatment can also be performed surgically: In balloon kyphoplasty, two cannulas are introduced into the vertebra and two balloons are advanced through the vertebrae. The balloons are gently inflated so that the vortex slowly straightens. The resulting cavity is filled with bone cement.

In vertebroplasty, a large hollow needle is inserted into the affected vertebra and injected without prior erection directly into the vertebral body bone cement. Any malposition is retained. If an underlying disease such as osteoporosis has caused a vertebral fracture, it must be treated as well.

Prevent a vertebral body fracture

For example, against external forces such as road traffic, you can only protect yourself by straps, airbags or during sports through a back protector. If there is an increased risk of osteoporosis, a bone density measurement should be performed. Physical activity such as muscle training for example with dumbbells, cycling, swimming and spine exercises are important for calcium incorporation in the bones.

In addition, a balanced and calcium-rich (1 -1.3 grams daily) diet, calcium-containing mineral water and vitamin D intake (1, 000 units daily) prevents increased bone loss. If there is already an osteoporosis, then further bone loss can be inhibited by medication.

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