Patient Information Resources

Alpine Physical Therapy
Three Locations
In North, South, and Downtown Missoula
Missoula, MT 59804
Ph: 406-251-2323
Fax: 406-251-2999

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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Mom fell today and had an X-ray that showed what looks like an old compression fracture of the spine next to a new one. Since she recovered from the last one without knowing she had one, should we just manage this new one the same way?

That is a good question and one her orthopedic surgeon will have to evaluate and answer. We can give you some information that might help you decide what's best for your mother's care. Older adults can recover from vertebral compression fractures just as your mother did. But usually the spine heals in a compressed position. With a delay in treatment, there is the potential for increased spinal deformity. If the vertebral body collapses further, pressure on the spinal nerve roots creates more pain. The flexed posture of the spine (called kyphosis) shifts the center of gravity forward and puts pressure on the vertebrae above and below the fractured segment. The result can be additional vertebral compression fractures. Some benefits of early treatment are the reduction of pain and the use of less pain medications. Function is improved and quality of life is reportedly better. There are some newer, less invasive procedures that can be done for this problem that your mother might be a candidate for. One is called kyphoplasty. Kyphoplasty involves inserting a deflated balloon into the fractured and collapsed vertebral body. Hydraulic pressure is used to inflate the balloon. The balloon is inflated until the vertebral body height is restored to normal or until the balloon is fully inflated. The balloon is then collapsed and removed. The empty space left by the inflated balloon is quickly filled in with cement that is injected into the area. Not everyone is a good candidate for this procedure. It might be something to ask her physician about. The sooner the better as results appear to be best when the procedure is done in the first two weeks after the fracture.


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