This is why diagnostic imaging is important. Tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans can help evaluate compression and wedge fractures. In addition, a bone density test may tell you definitively if you have osteoporosis. Bone biopsies are also used to confirm osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that affects post-menopausal women in particular.
Bone mass is made up of protein, as well as the minerals calcium and phosphorous. Fractures due to osteoporosis can occur after trauma, but they can also come about with no apparent cause. The good news, though, is that many cases of vertebral compression fractures (the most common type) improve within 3 months without any treatment at all, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Your doctor may prescribe a brace for you to wear, as well. About one-quarter of osteoporosis fracture cases don't respond well to conservative care, such as physical therapy, medication, or simply waiting it out. So if your pain is severe and it doesn't get better with conservative measures, it may then be time to consider surgery.
Two types of procedures are commonly used to surgically treat spinal fractures: vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Both are minimally invasive and will likely allow you to recover relatively quickly and easily. They involve injecting cement into your bone to help mend it, and in some cases, to restore the height of the vertebra.
While hyperkyphosis can be caused by a number of things about a third of the time, they are a result of spinal fractures in the elderly population. As the name suggests, hyperkyphosis is a deformity in which the normal kyphotic curve in the thoracic spine (located in your upper and mid-back areas) becomes excessive or exaggerated.
It can occur in any of the structures that make up your back, including the discs, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and more. Most of the time, non-surgical treatment can relieve the pain in your back and increase your physical functioning. Sometimes, though, conservative methods fail and your doctor may suggest surgery.
Degeneration in spinal discs is the most common type of spinal degeneration and often the first type to develop. Degenerating spinal discs can lead to degenerative changes in other parts of the spine, as well. Disc degeneration is not technically a spinal disease, but rather a description of the condition of these shock-absorbing "pillows." According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly everyone over the age of 60 has at least some disc degeneration (as shown by MRIs.) But not all will feel pain.
Things that cause disc degeneration include the inevitable drying that comes with age. Drying decreases the disc's ability to absorb shock. Discs have little to no blood supply, which means once they've been damaged, healing is difficult at best. This limited healing capacity of the discs is often what starts and/or perpetuates the deterioration process that leads to spinal degeneration.
Most of the time, internal disc disruption (IDD) is at the root of the problem. Internal disc disruption is another name for annular tear injuries, the collapse of the disc and/or mechanical failure of the disc, with no accompanying changes to the shape of the disc (as viewed from the outside) and no changes to the vertebral endplate.
In other words, it is not the same as degenerative disc disease or herniated disc. Discogenic pain is the name given to the pain resulting from IDD. Symptoms of degenerating discs tend to occur where the damage is located. Symptoms can include pain (mild to severe) that worsens when you sit, lift, bend, or twist.
Numbness, tingling and/or leg weakness (in the case of lumbar disc degeneration) that accompany the pain can indicate damage to one or more spinal nerve roots. Doctors divide up the types of pain related to spinal degeneration into 4 categories. Axial pain is pain that occurs in and around the spinal column.
Myelopathy refers to pain and other symptoms related to damage to the spinal cord (examples of myelopathy symptoms include coordination or gait issues, and possible bowel or bladder problems). Myelopathy symptoms tend to be more serious in nature than symptoms that are related to radiculopathy or those that are limited to the axial spine.
It is diagnosed when your doctor cannot find any reason, other than the disc itself, to explain the presence of your pain. To arrive at the DDD diagnosis (as well as the diagnosis for many other types of spinal problems) your doctor will likely use medical history, a physical exam and possibly MRI.