Treatment for a spinal compression fracture at work begins with nonsurgical options. Falls, car accidents and occasionally lifting or exertion beyond tolerances a particular back can take cause work-related compression fractures. Workers compensation should be there if permanent work restrictions result. The insurance company does not have to tell you what your rights are and they don’t. The majority of patients with compression fractures are treated without surgery. Literature indicates most compression fractures heal within eight weeks with simple remedies of medicine, rest, and perhaps a back brace.
Many patients are given medication to control pain. Although medications can help ease pain, they are not designed to heal the fracture. With pain under control, patients find it easier to get up and move about, avoiding the problems that come from remaining immobile in bed.
Patients are usually prescribed a short period of rest. This gives the fracture a chance to heal and aids in pain control. In some cases, the doctor may have a patient stay in bed for up to one week. Many patients are fit with a special back brace, which limits spine movement. This protects the fractured vertebral body so it can heal.
Open surgical treatment for spinal compression fractures is rare but may be required in some cases. Surgeons have begun using newer minimally invasive procedures to treat compression fractures called vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Minimally invasive means the incisions used are very small, and there is little disturbance of the muscles and bones where the procedure is done.
With vertebroplasty, the surgeon uses a fluoroscope to guide a needle into the fractured vertebral body. Once the surgeon is sure the needle is in the right place, bone cement, called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), is injected through the needle into the fractured vertebra. A reaction in the cement causes it to harden within 15 minutes. This fixes the bone so that it does not collapse any further as it heals. More than 80 percent of patients get immediate pain relief with this procedure.
Kyphoplasty also halts severe pain and strengthens the fractured bone. However, it also prevents lost height in the vertebral body, helping prevent kyphosis. The surgeon slides a hollow tube with a deflated balloon on the end through each drill hole. Inflating the balloons restores the height of the vertebral body and corrects the kyphosis deformity. Before the procedure is complete, the surgeon injects bone cement into the hollow space formed by the balloon. This fixes the bone in its corrected size and position.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents injured workers with compression fractures, often in the thoracic vertebrae. We obtain disability benefits and medical bill payments.