If you have to take courses of prednisone frequently to help control your Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) flares, then you need to know what spinal compression fractures are, how to avoid them, and what to do if you suspect you have one. Why? Taking frequent courses of prednisone can lead to bone thinning and osteoporosis, and IBD itself puts you at risk for osteoporosis due to your frequently inflamed colon's inability to absorb many vitamins and nutrients that support healthy bones. While bone thinning and osteoporosis both put you at risk of many types of bone fractures, if you suffer from a spinal compression fracture, you may not even realize you developed one at all if you already suffer from frequent back pain. Read on to learn more about spinal compression fractures, how to avoid them, and what to do if you suspect you have developed one.
How Spinal Compression Fractures Develop
When your bones are thin and weak due to osteoporosis, the small bones that make up your back, called vertebrae, can develop small cracks called hairline fractures very easily. These small cracks themselves can go unnoticed by you, and you could even already have a few of them and not feel any pain -- yet. However, once a few of these small cracks develop in one back vertebrae, it weakens the bone dramatically, and this weak vertebrae can then collapse.
Surprisingly, many people feel no pain after suffering from a spinal compression fracture. However, others do. In people who suffer pain from the fractures, the pain typically hits them very quickly and suddenly. Pain from a spinal compression fracture typically worsens when standing and is greatly relieved when lying down on your back.
How You Can Prevent Spinal Compression Fractures
While you cannot control the fact that you have IBD or the fact that you need to take prednisone when your symptoms are "flaring" and your doctor needs to control the inflammation for your overall health, there are some spinal compression fracture risk factors that you can control.
First, since smoking leads to bone loss, don't smoke cigarettes; smoking cigarettes doesn't just affect your lung health, but it truly affects the overall health of your body. Don't drink more than four alcoholic drinks each day, since this can also cause your bones to thin, and try to keep your BMI above 19; a too-low BMI can cause your body's estrogen levels to plummet, which increases your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Of course, keeping your daily intake of calcium high is important for strong bones, along with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium more efficiently. Strive to consume about 1,200 mg of calcium each day and 600 or more IUs of vitamin D. Sun exposure causes your body to create Vitamin D naturally, so enjoy a nice walk in the sun each day, if you can, to take advantage of this natural source of Vitamin D.
Using good body mechanics can also help prevent spinal compression fractures; remember to always bend your knees when picking up objects off the ground.
Spinal Compression Fracture Diagnosis &Treatment
Only about one-third of all spinal compression fractures suffered in the US are ever diagnosed due to the fact that there are so many causes of back pain that it can be so easy for a doctor to misdiagnose this type of fracture. If you ever suspect that you have developed one, your doctor will likely ask you questions and order back x-rays. However, these fractures can be missed on x-rays, so don't be afraid to ask for a CAT scan or MRI if your x-rays do not detect the fracture you suspect.
It is important to receive a proper diagnosis, so your treatment can then be targeted to exactly what you are suffering from. Your doctor may first take a "wait and see" approach to see if your fracture heals on its own; during this time, you will be instructed to rest as much as possible and may be prescribed a pain medication, if you feel you need it.
If your spinal compression fracture does not heal on its own, then your doctor may suggest a surgery to relieve the pain and help you lead a normal life again. There are two types of spinal compression surgeries that are commonly used: vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. While slightly different, both offer similar benefits -- they help stabilize your spine to help you begin performing your normal daily activities again, relieve pain, and restore the height that you lost during the fracture.
If you suffer from IBD and take courses of prednisone or other corticosteriods frequently to control colon inflammation, then be aware that both having IBD and taking prednisone increase your risk of osteoporosis and the spinal compression fractures that, unfortunately, often occur in people with weak bones. Commit to taking steps to keep your bones healthy and, if you ever experience sudden back pain, know that it could be a spinal compression fracture that your doctor can help you heal. Reach out to a professional, such as Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates, for more information.