Patients' Guide To
Spinal Fractures & Kyphoplasty

Spinal Fracture Self-Assessment Tool

Is it Just Back Pain or a Fracture?

Proper diagnosis and early treatment is essential to prevent spinal compression fractures. But there are usually no symptoms—and many times, a fracture is the first indication that you have osteoporosis. Plus, people often mistake spinal fractures for regular back pain, and they don’t realize that they should seek out treatment. That’s what this questionnaire is for—to help you determine if you should take steps to prevent bone loss and spinal fractures.

Do you have back pain?
The symptoms of spinal compression fractures are often mistaken for less serious back pain. You may experience pain ranging from sudden and severe (if it occurred suddenly), to long-lasting and dull (if it developed gradually).

It’s important that you not ignore back pain—even if it seems ordinary. Your back pain could actually be a spinal fracture. In fact, it’s one of the primary symptoms of a fracture.

In most cases, pain from a spinal fracture lasts 4-6 weeks—about as long as it takes for the bone to heal. After that, patients often report that they experience chronic back pain at the fracture site.

Are you a post-menopausal woman?
Anyone can have a spinal compression fractures, but post-menopausal women are particularly at risk. Women lose bone mass at an accelerated rate in the first 5-7 years after menopause. During menopause, women experience a significant decrease in estrogen, which is a hormone that protects bones. When estrogen levels decrease, bones may lose density and become prone to fractures.

Have you lost height?
It’s important to pay attention to posture changes. When you have a spinal compression fracture, it can change the normal alignment of your spine. If you have multiple fractures, your spine may actually begin to shrink and angle forward. As a result, you’ll lose inches in height. This is a hallmark characteristic of kyphosis.

Kyphosis can cause many health issues, such as chronic back pain and sleep difficulties. This condition can even affect your ability to breathe because the forward curve of the spine can compress your chest cavity.

If you answered “yes” to at least two of these questions, schedule a bone mineral density test and talk to your doctor about your concerns. A physical exam, along with other diagnostic tests, can help determine whether your back pain may be due to a compression fracture. But even if you didn’t answer “yes” to any of the questions, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about osteoporosis and spinal fractures. You can’t start a prevention plan too soon.

Updated on: 05/06/14
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Osteoporosis is the main cause of spinal compression fractures, but corticosteroids can also cause them. Corticosteroids are medications that relieve inflammation. If taken too long and at very high doses, they can increase your risk for fractures.
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