Typically, the first line of treatment for vertebral compression fractures is conservative therapy (non-surgical), which includes pain medication, calcium and vitamin D supplements, rest (but only for a short time period, as prolonged inactivity can lead to further bone loss), and external bracing.
Pain from a spinal fracture can last for several months while healing, but if it heals well with conservative treatment, the pain will usually improve significantly within a few days or weeks.
When pain from a compression fracture persists, surgery may be considered to repair the fracture. The two commonly used procedures for spine fractures from osteoporosis are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, but in rare instances, where the patient has significant loss of vertebral height, spine fusion surgery may be appropriate.
Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty have been shown to decrease or eliminate the pain associated with vertebral compression fractures. Medicare and most private insurance companies cover both procedures.
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Candidates for Vertebroplasty
Patients best suited for vertebroplasty are those with a painful, non-healing vertebral compression fracture, regardless of the age of the fracture (although the procedure is most successful for more recent fractures). Most patients experience these fractures due to underlying osteoporosis, but patients who suffer fractures due to tumors may also be eligible.
Patients not considered for vertebroplasty include those who are having pain not related to a vertebral compression fracture, those who have an extensive fracture affecting surrounding structures, or who suffer from an infection in which case the infection would have to be adequately treated first prior to undergoing vertebroplasty.