Spinal fractures can be caused by both trauma from an accident or fall and medical conditions such as osteoporosis and other diseases that weaken the bones. The most common cause of vertebral compression fractures is osteoporosis, and it happens most frequently in people over the age of 50. Some of the symptoms associated with a spinal fracture include:
- Sudden back pain
- Increased pain with standing or walking
- Limited mobility in the spine
- Becoming shorter
- A physical deformity like a hunch in the back
In many cases, treatment for a spinal fracture does not require surgery as the bones will heal on their own. However, it is important to use caution during spinal fracture recovery to prevent prolonging the injury.
Spinal Fracture Recovery Tips
After being diagnosed with a spinal fracture, it’s time to start the recovery process. Follow these tips for safe and healthy healing.
1. Use Medication as Needed
Spinal fractures can be painful, and many people find they need something to relieve this discomfort, especially during the period immediately after the fracture has occurred. Work with your doctor to determine the appropriate type of pain relief for you. This depends on the level of pain you are experiencing and any other types of medication you are currently taking. As the pain subsides, you may be able to decrease the dosage, switch to an OTC pain reliever, or eliminate medication altogether.
If your spinal fracture is related to a medical condition like osteoporosis, your doctor might also prescribe medication to help improve bone density.
2. Rest Is Required
The body needs a lot of energy to heal itself, so getting ample rest is critical. Limiting activity is especially important immediately after the injury because this is when your body goes through the inflammatory response, which causes pain and swelling. Limiting movement helps prevent exacerbating the inflammation, which allows your body to heal itself more quickly. For several weeks you should also avoid bending, twisting, and lifting.
While you rest, it is also important to maintain a healthy diet that allows your body to get the nutrients it needs for the healing process. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat balanced meals that include fruits and vegetables.
3. Physical Therapy Builds Strength
As you continue to recover, physical therapy helps you build strength and regain range of motion in your back. Muscles in the hips, back, and abdominals weaken during the rest phase when mobility is limited. Safely rebuilding these muscles is necessary to return to regular activity and prevent re-injury. Your physical therapy treatment plan might include:
- Flexibility exercises to improve range of motion
- Weight-bearing exercises to improve muscle and bone strength
- Techniques for maintaining proper posture
- Exercises to help you prevent falls
- Nutrition consultation to improve bone strength
4. Bracing Provides Support
Your doctor or physical therapist might also recommend using a back brace to provide support during the recovery process. Although this can be beneficial for a period of time, follow their instructions as prolonged use of a brace can ultimately contribute to muscle weakness.
5. Cold Therapy Can Help
Using a cold therapy system throughout spinal fracture recovery can help relieve pain and swelling in the area surrounding the injury. A flexible wrap that encloses the entire back area and delivers consistent therapeutic cold in combination with wrap-conforming compression. This compression allows cold to penetrate deeper into the damaged tissues and makes it more effective than an ice pack. Cold therapy systems are also easy to use and do not require you to hold an ice pack in the same position throughout the treatment process. You can rent a device through your for home use during recovery or use a system at your physical therapy appointment.
Selecting a physical therapist is an important step in the spinal fracture recovery process. Ask your doctor for recommendations.