According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a startling 50 million+ Americans suffer with osteoporosis, the condition characterized by weakened, brittle bones. Your bones lose so much integrity, in fact, that you can suffer a fracture from doing something as harmless as coughing.
Osteoporosis affects the bones in your limbs, your hips, and your spine, and spinal fractures, otherwise known as vertebral compression fractures, are common in patients with the disease.
Dr. Benjamin Cohen has devoted his career to mastering spinal surgery of all types, but in addition to being technically talented, he aims to get to know you, learn about your overall medical history and how it interacts with your osteoporosis, and build a relationship with you that’s based on trust.
How does osteoporosis damage your spine?
Sometimes referred to as a silent disease, osteoporosis is stealthy. It often emerges suddenly and painfully, with little warning.
Again, osteoporosis is puzzling because some people suffer no pain with a fracture, while others experience debilitating pain that is exacerbated by doing things like walking and even standing upright. Fractures in your lower spine generally cause more pain, but multiple spinal fractures are possible, too.
Hallmarks of a spinal fracture can include:
- Intense pain, sometimes with sudden onset
- Inability to bend and twist your body
- Spinal curvature
- Lost height
- Hunched posture
Since your bones are alive, you run into trouble and become at most risk for osteoporosis when your body can’t keep up with producing enough strong, healthy bone. Contrary to popular belief, many men suffer from osteoporosis, too, so it’s not just a woman’s problem. People of either gender who have osteoporosis are more likely to be over 50.
What if your doctor finds that you have a spinal fracture?
In order to learn if you have a spinal fracture, Dr. Cohen orders neurological and imaging tests, so he can get a good look at your spine. A DEXA scan is a specific test he might also order to make a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you haven’t yet been diagnosed. It’s critical to get treatment ASAP when a fracture is discovered to lower your nerve damage risk.
If he finds that you have a spinal compression fracture, the majority of which are caused by osteoporosis, Dr. Cohen evaluates your treatment choices, which may include pain medication, physical therapy, a back brace, and surgery. If he determines that you need a surgical solution for your spinal fracture, he explains your options.
Dr. Cohen routinely performs two minimally invasive surgical procedures for those who’ve suffered osteoporosis-related compression fractures, as well as an operation known as lumbar vertebral body replacement.
In a procedure called vertebroplasty for compression fractures, Dr. Cohen injects a special low-viscosity, quick-drying cement into your collapsed vertebral body, the main portion of your vertebrae that connects your discs and bears about 80% of the load when you stand. This is done using high pressure, and the ultimate goal is the stabilization of your fracture so you’re pain-free.
Dr. Cohen uses this same method in the kyphoplasty surgery. What sets this procedure apart is that before injecting the cement, he uses a balloon to enlarge your bone, which helps restore bone height and addresses the classic stooping posture that accompanies osteoporosis.
If your vertebral body is fractured, your spinal nerves are left unstable and compressed. In this surgery, Dr. Cohen actually swaps out the fractured portion of your spine with a small metal cage that’s filled with bone graft material. This material fuels bone growth. Amazingly, new bone grows through this cage and slowly fuses with your own.
Whichever surgery is recommended, Dr. Cohen answers all questions you may have about aftercare and recovery, and monitors you closely.
Learn about your options if you have a spinal fracture related to osteoporosis
If you suffer from osteoporosis or are at risk, contact our office to set up a consultation with Dr. Cohen. Call our office or reach out to us through our website to schedule an in-office or telemedicine appointment — we’re offering both for your safety and convenience.