Do you have back pain that gets worse when you stand up and decreases when you lie down on your back? Do you feel back pain when you sneeze, cough, or laugh? Furthermore, does it seem like you’re a bit shorter than you used to be? If this sounds familiar, you may have a compression fracture.
What is a compression fracture?
This distinct type of bone fracture happens in the back. It most commonly occurs in the thoracic spine, which is the middle portion of your spine. Compression fractures occur when a vertebral body collapses. This can lead to severe pain, limited mobility, spinal deformities — most notably a humpback — and more.
What causes compression fractures?
The most common cause of compression fractures in the United States is osteoporosis, an age-related, degenerative bone disease that causes bones to become brittle, weak, and susceptible to damage. People with osteoporosis can sustain minor compression fractures that can worsen over time and eventually lead to debilitation if not treated.
Other causes of compression fractures include trauma to the back, such as from a fall or blow, as well as cancerous tumors that started in or spread to the bone.
How can compression fractures be prevented?
Because osteoporosis is by far the most common cause of compression factors, the best way to prevent them is to prevent osteoporosis. You can help prevent osteoporosis from starting or progressing by implementing these lifestyle practices from the National Osteoporosis Foundation:
- Get enough sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for bone health.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium from various sources, including dairy and leafy greens.
- Avoid tobacco and nicotine products.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Start a consistent exercise plan that includes weight-bearing exercise, such as resistance training.
Additionally, you can practice safe-spine habits to reduce your risk of getting compression fractures. For instance:
- Don’t do exercises you can’t perform correctly. Ask a fitness professional for help if you need guidance.
- Don’t pick up objects that are too heavy for you.
- Sit and stand with a proper posture.
- Limit your total sitting and sedentary time.
- Exercise your core — the muscles in the center of your body — to keep it strong and stable.