Spinal compression fractures (SCFs) are fractures that can happen in the spine when there’s too much pressure on the vertebral body. They are classified into four categories: cervical, thoracic, sacral, and lumbar compression fractures, depending on where the spinal fracture happens. Spinal compression fracture injuries can become fatal or cause severe neurological and physical impairment. 

If you or your loved one is suffering from spinal compression fractures, you can contact us at Suarez Physical Therapy for help today. Our Las Vegas-based physiotherapists will utilize our expertise to help relieve your pain and help you maintain a healthy life. 

An Overview of Spinal Compression Fractures (SCFs) 

SCFs are a particular kind of fracture that happens in a patient's spine. They frequently result from trauma or accidents and, if left untreated, can lead to paralysis. 

Compression fractures can be brought on by simple actions like twisting or bending while lifting an object. When a person's bones are weak, even laughing, sneezing, or coughing can result in a SCF. The spine may eventually become shorter and less stable due to these minor compression fractures. The entire spine may become weak due to fractures. 

Compression fractures trigger the bone before the vertebra to collapse. The back part of the vertebral column remains solid. The top part of the spine rounds toward the front as a result of this frontal breakdown. The resulting round posture is called thoracic hyperkyphosis, which can be additionally referred to as a dowager's hump.

Trauma to a person's spine can also lead to an SCF. The following events could result in spinal trauma: 

  • Car accidents.
  • Falling hard or falling for over 15 feet and landing on your feet.
  • Head trauma.

Falling from a standing position that causes an SCF or another type of fracture often shows weakened bones from osteoporosis. Numbness or tingling sensations in one or all legs can often be the first indication of an SCF. When the fracture is left untreated, it could progressively worsen, causing nerve damage and pain that may eventually cause paralysis. 

To make a diagnosis of the fracture, your physician will examine it to ascertain the severity of the injuries. This entails a medical background as well as a physical assessment of the region, in addition to MRI scans and X-rays. 

If you experience any of the signs of a spinal compression fracture, you need to see a doctor right away. Treatment for SCFs varies depending on the severity of the injuries but can include surgical treatment to get rid of debris from the surrounding regions, surgery for repairing the bone using a plastic fusion or implant, as well as physical therapy. 

Physical Therapy For Spinal Compression Fractures 

SCFs are most common across the thoracic spinal column, and thereafter by the lumbar spinal column. These fractures can occur as a result of a variety of activities, such as car accidents and falls from elevated positions. SCFs can also result from spinal cord injuries. 

The most common course of treatment for spinal compression fractures is an immediate surgical intervention to extract the compressed bones and relieve the spine. 

Physical therapy, on the other hand, can be recommended to assist with restoring mobility and recovery of the injury site. Physical therapy should begin as early as the fracture has become stable (as assessed by a doctor). Spinal compression fracture patients receive physical therapy to: 

  • Lessen the pain in their backs.
  • Increase their strength and flexibility.
  • Fix their posture.
  • Enhance their overall performance.
  • Reduce their likelihood of falling thus helping reduce the likelihood of broken bones again. 

Casts and braces are sometimes used to keep the broken bone in place while the patient recovers. When surgery isn't an option, patients can continue physiotherapy for many months or sometimes years. In addition, some drugs can alleviate the inflammation and pain caused by an SCF. 

What Does a Spine Compression Fracture Feel Like? 

There may be little to no pain at first from compression fractures brought on by thin, fragile bones. In some cases, the fracture site feels particularly painful. The muscles that lie on either side of the spinal column become shorter due to the collapsed vertebral column and the consequent reduction of the vertebral height, which gives the spinal column a curved appearance. 

This causes strain and pain in the patient's back muscles because they have to work harder than usual. When pain manifests, it usually disappears after a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, back pain can occasionally worsen to the extent that patients need medical attention. 

Many people are unaware of the signs and symptoms of an SCF. They can be written off as typical back pain brought on by aging or muscle strain. Most spinal compression fractures caused by non-traumatic causes are not treated. 

Back and leg pain is common after a traumatic injury that results in a compression fracture. When the vertebral body is severely damaged by the fracture, bone fragments can become lodged in your spinal canal and put pressure on your spine. Muscles may become paralyzed, and regions served by the injured nerve tissue may experience a loss of sensation. 

The spine could become unstable due to this fracture. When this occurs, the spine ultimately leans forward due to increased kyphosis, increasing the likelihood of future spinal cord complications. 

In extreme cases, those suffering from spinal compression fractures could experience: 

  • Walking challenges.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Incapacity to move their legs.

Diagnosis of Spinal Compression Fractures 

The first step in any diagnosis is a thorough physical assessment and taking of the patient’s medical background. Your physical therapist will enquire about the symptoms you are experiencing along with how your condition affects your everyday life. 

A few examples of such inquiries are whether or not you have tingling sensations or limb weakness, as well as questions about the location and what happened when the pain began. Additionally, your physiotherapist will ask you about the positions and activities that aggravate or alleviate your symptoms. 

The next step is a physical assessment by your physiotherapist. They will run their hands along the spinal column and soft tissues to pinpoint the source of your pain. Often, the region above or close to the fractured vertebral column will feel sore and tender.  

The next step is for them to request you to move your body in various directions so they can examine your range of motion and figure out which motions cause back pain and other symptoms. You might also need to have your muscle strength, skin sensitivity, and reflexes tested. 

Your physiotherapist might also check the hip joints since the health of the back is highly related to how well they function. 

After reviewing your medical history and performing a physical assessment, your PT might identify a compression fracture as the cause of your symptoms and send you to your primary care physician for further evaluation and testing. 

Physical Therapy Types for Spinal Compression Fractures 

Can respond to a variety of physical therapy techniques. A physiotherapist may suggest a certain treatment plan for a patient instead of another, based on the patient's needs and condition. 

Massage Therapy 

Pain and inflammation can be reduced with massage therapy. It can additionally accelerate the healing process. Trigger Point Massage is an example of massage that helps to lessen pain and inflammation in the injury site. 

Additionally, to help increase mobility, your therapist could use a range of motion or manual stretch exercises. 

Strengthening Exercises 

Strengthening the muscles that surround the spine through strength training could help stabilize it and avoid future fractures. You can achieve this goal by performing bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, planks, and push-ups. 

Another excellent tool for this is using resistance bands. Exercises that build core stability, such as leg lifts and crunches, can be helpful for people who have SCFs. 

Stretching Exercises 

SCF physical therapy often includes stretching exercises. It not only aids in loosening tense muscles and enhancing movement but also lessens pain. Your physiotherapist could recommend stretching your glutes, lower back, or hamstrings that target particular parts of the body. 

Balance Exercises 

Exercises that improve balance are crucial for people who have experienced a spinal fracture. Balance exercises can lower the likelihood of future fractures by strengthening the body's stabilizing muscles, including the core. Stands on a single leg or balance boards are two types of exercises that focus on maintaining and improving balance. 

Cardio Training 

Exercises that target the cardiovascular system are an essential component of the physiotherapy program for patients who have suffered from spinal compression fractures. Walking, swimming, cycling, or exercising on an elliptical trainer are all examples of low-impact workouts that can assist to enhance your general well-being. 

When performed in moderation, aerobic exercises such as jumping jacks, stair climbing, and running could also be beneficial. 

In general, physical therapy plays a significant role in the rehabilitation of patients with spinal compression fractures. Patients can properly manage the symptoms while lowering their chances of future bone fractures if the fitting treatment schedule and fitness regimen are put into place. 

Benefits of Physical Therapy For SCF 

Physiotherapy for compression fractures has many advantages. Some of them include: 

Mobility Enhancement 

When treating compression fractures, of the primary goals of physiotherapy is to improve the patient's range of motion and flexibility. This may assist with pain alleviation while enhancing your mobility, making it easier for you to go about your daily tasks. 

Muscle Strengthening 

The muscles surrounding the spine can be strengthened through physical therapy, which then provides more support and stability. This can assist in enhancing posture, which reduces stress on the spinal column and eases pain brought on by compression fractures. 

Boosts Endurance 

In addition, participating in physical therapy can assist in improving one's level of stamina and endurance, which can lead to an increase in overall energy levels. This also makes it more straightforward to maintain an active lifestyle and adhere to your everyday schedule. 

Enhances Self-confidence 

When you notice an improvement in the healing process from compression fractures, physiotherapy will offer you a feeling of success and boost your self-confidence, both of which are important for a healthy recovery. 

What Can I Expect During My Recovery? 

The majority of people with osteoporosis-related spinal compression fractures recover in about eight weeks. As previously stated, surgery is not usually necessary for patients who experience compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. 

Rather, they receive conservative care, including rest, bracing, as well as several early recovery sessions for pain alleviation and self-management education. 

Unfortunately, recovery from severe fractures of the vertebrae can take much longer. When this occurs, patients may be required to participate in physiotherapy for a period of 2 to 3 months, and they should expect to recover anywhere from one to twelve months. 

Your physical therapist will typically start treatment for the SCF once the injury has been definitively confirmed on inquiry and is considered stable. If you have been advised to rest for a while, your physical therapy sessions won't start until you've fulfilled the conditions of your bed rest. 

Your first treatment will focus on reducing the pain and inflammation that develop in the area surrounding the spinal compression fracture. 

The physiotherapist could recommend the use of interferential current or ultrasound, two types of electrical modalities, to help alleviate these symptoms. Other hands-on methods, like applying gentle pressure to your joints or massaging the muscles, could also be beneficial. The application of heat or ice to the affected area frequently offers significant pain relief. 

Thankfully, the pain in your back from a fracture usually lessens as the spinal fracture heals, especially if you're participating in a physical therapy program. Although the fracture alters how the spine functions, it is common for patients to experience some persistent discomfort in the joints and muscles close to the injured vertebra. 

Your PT will advise you to visit your doctor for pain management through medication when there is an excessive amount of discomfort that persists over time. 

The physiotherapist will start working on any issues with flexibility or strength that have arisen as a result of the period of reduced activity after a compression fracture once the pain associated with the injury has subsided. 

Can You Prevent this Injury or Condition? 

Spinal compression fractures can be prevented in several ways. Physical therapists advise patients to: 

  • Practice good body posture and mechanics when going about their daily routines.
  • When performing everyday tasks or exercises, try to refrain from bending forward too far or twisting your spine deeply or quickly. Your physiotherapist will instruct you on the proper postures and workout routines to follow to assist with keeping you safe.
  • Lower the likelihood of falling. In addition, to balance exercises, your PT could suggest making a few modifications to your home.
  • Exercise regularly. Add activities that require weight, like walking and lifting light weights.
  • Give up smoking. It makes the healing process longer.
  • Limit your alcohol intake because it throws your balance off.
  • Maintain a healthy diet to support bone health.
  • Follow your doctor's or dietitian's advice and take vitamin D and calcium supplements. 

How Do I Find the Right Physical Therapist? 

All physical therapy professionals have the training and experience necessary to diagnose and treat many spinal injuries and conditions. However, here are some things to keep in mind : 

  • A physiotherapist who specializes in geriatric or orthopedic care and has either earned board certification as a specialist or finished a fellowship or residency in one of these areas. This physiotherapist may be able to help you because of their extensive background and training.
  • A physiotherapist who has experience treating patients suffering from spinal trauma and other conditions. Some physical therapy professionals specialize in orthopedics or geriatrics.
  • If you're looking for physiotherapists in the region that specialize in a particular area of clinical knowledge, you can utilize Find a PT, an online resource created by the American Physical Therapy Association, to find those who hold other credentials. 

You can use the following recommendations to find any type of healthcare professional, including physical therapists: 

  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or other medical professionals.
  • Inquire about the physiotherapists' experience treating patients with spinal injuries and conditions when you call a physiotherapy clinic to schedule an appointment.
  • When seeing a physical therapist for the first time, you can expect to be requested to provide a thorough description of your symptoms and to identify any aggravating factors. 

Find a Las Vegas Physical Therapist Near Me

 If you've been diagnosed with a spinal compression fracture, don't put off going to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are trained to help patients recover from injuries and get back to their normal lives as safely and soon as possible. Physical therapy is not just for those who suffer from fractured bones. Anyone who suffers from persistent pain or has trouble moving around should try it. Additionally, physical therapy can be a crucial tool in preventing additional injuries. 

If you’re looking for a physical therapist to help you with your spinal compression fractures symptoms, you can contact Suarez Physical Therapy. Our Las Vegas physical therapy specialists are well-trained and equipped to help you get back to your daily routine. Call us at 702-368-6778 today and get started on your road to recovery.