Vertebral compression fractures are just one of the many causes of back pain. They are extremely common and many patients are unaware that they even have a compression fracture. There are more than 750,000 people diagnosed with vertebral compression fractures each year.
This type of injury is extremely common in older women. Approximately 25% of postmenopausal women in the United States have vertebral compression fractures, while more than 40% of women age 80 have the same condition. Let’s dive into this medical issue and figure out exactly why they happen and what we can do about it.
Causes & Treatment of Vertebral Compression Fractures
Vertebral compression fractures are generally the result of a long and fruitful life. When a patient has a weak and brittle bones from either old age or cancer, this type of injury can easily happen. If a patient’s vertebrae are weak and brittle enough then a simple cough or sneeze can cause a compression fracture.
A fracture is basically a crack or break of one of the vertebrae in a patient’s back. The fractures may be small at first, but over time they can become problematic. You can actually lose some height from spinal fractures. The vertebrae can collapse, which will lead to immense pain in any patient. Actually about two-thirds of vertebral compression fractures are never diagnosed. Patients assume that they are just suffering from old age or arthritis. They could find relief from their pain if they would only pursue it.
Most patients who do not find relief from physical therapy or other alternative treatments resort to surgery to fix their ailments. The most common surgery for vertebral compression fractures are vertebroplasties or kyphoplasties. Neither are the best option for patients suffering from the ailment.
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Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty
When a patient is suffering from a severe vertebral compression fracture they may turn to vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. Both procedures are extremely similar. The main part of it is that a patient’s fractured vertebrae is injected with bone cement to try and stabilize it as well as lower the amount of pain a patient feels. Now what in the world is bone cement?
Bone cement is most commonly made out of the same material as plexiiglass. Surgeons use the material to anchor artificial joints, such as hips and knees, to the rest of the bone. Most people would probably like to avoid putting ‘cement’ into their bodies. Not to mention that bone cement has a host of issues as well.
Bone cement has the potential to actually leak out of the bone. That can cause serious complications, such as nerve damage. Patients could also be potentially allergic to bone cement. Bone cement is not the same material as the bone inside your body. As such is contracts and expands at different rates compared to the bone that it is meant to fix.
The FDA actually issued a warning about this back in 2002. Bone Cement Implantation Syndrome causes bone marrow, fat, and bone cement to leak into the bloodstream. A patient can suffer from pulmonary embolism or cardiac arrest when bone cement leaks into the bloodstream. Foreign substances can wreak havoc on your body.
Sadly, this is one of the most common surgical procedures that patients who suffer a vertebral compression fracture. Patients might feel that they do not have any other options besides surgery to relieve their back pain. They are pushed into a corner and may be forced to go through a procedure they are not sure of.
Thankfully, there are new treatment methods that are being developed to treat vertebral compression fractures. Stem cells have been studied for their abilities to heal bones. Stem cells are a natural part of your body, unlike bone cement. They can utilize the body’s natural ability to heal instead of putting a bandaid on the situation. There is new research that shows stem cells can actually reverse a vertebral compression fracture.
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Cold, Hard Research Facts
A study showed that utilizing stem cells in addition to calcium hormones led to incredible results.
Rats and pigs with vertebral compression fractures were treated with a combination of stem cells and calcium hormone. For 21 days one group was given the calcium hormone. During the time period they also received 5 injections of stem cells. Bone volume density and healthy bone formation both increased in the animals that were treated with stem cell treatment.
The study showcased that mesenchymal stem cells led to rapid bone repair in the lab animals. The animals that received the stem cells had three to four more healing than the group that did not receive the treatment. This could lead to stem cell therapies for human patients with vertebral compression fractures. Patients would benefit from a different form of treatment that does not use cement.
Stem cells can facilitate the body’s natural healing process and encourage the bone to completely repair itself. You may want to explore receiving stem cell treatments before resorting to more serious surgery. Stem cells are a lot more attractive than bone cement.