A spinal compression fracture in the workers compensation context often results from a fall or a motor vehicle accident. Of course there may very well be predisposing factors involved, but that does not obviate the compensability of the injury under workers compensation if the work accident contributed to the ultimate fractured vertebrae.
Strong, healthy bones are able to withstand the forces and strains of normal activity. Compression fractures in the spine happen when either the forces are too great or the bones of the spine aren’t strong enough. The vertebral body cracks under pressure. Fractures from forceful impact on the spine tend to crack the back (posterior) part of the vertebral body. Fractures from osteoporosis usually occur in the front (anterior) part of the vertebral body.
One predisposing factor is osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bone. Sometimes the bones in the spine weaken to the point that even mild forces can lead to a compression fracture. A simple action like reaching down to pick up a tool can cause a weakened vertebra to fracture. The front of the vertebra (the part closest to the front of the body) crumbles, causing the round vertebral body to become wedge-shaped. This angles the spine forward, producing a hunch-backed appearance, called kyphosis.
Diseases or conditions that affect the parathyroid gland can also weaken bones. Four pea-sized parathyroid glands are located just behind the thyroid gland in the throat. They produce a substance called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which normally regulates the amount of calcium in the blood stream. An overactive parathyroid gland releases too much PTH, causing the body to leach calcium from bones, even when there is more than enough calcium circulating in the blood stream. This disorder is called hyperparathyroidism. Cancers that affect the kidney, skin, or parathyroid gland may also cause the parathyroid gland to malfunction. The problem may cause bones to lose calcium and eventually weaken. Weakening in the spine bones makes the vertebrae more prone to crack in front, as is typical with osteoporosis.
Repetitive bending, twisting and lifting may weaken the spine and contribute conditions favorable to a compression fracture.
Spine trauma can produce mild or severe compression fractures. Compression fractures from trauma usually involve high forces that impact the spine when it is bent forward. This is typically what happens when a person falls onto the buttocks or strikes his head on the windshield in a car accident. Again, these traumatic fractures usually affect the back part of the vertebral body.
McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers with compression fractures, often in the thoracic vertebrae. We obtain disability benefits and medical bill payments.