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Help! I'm Shrinking!

Help! I'm Shrinking!

In the 1957 film “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” the lead actor finds himself growing smaller after exposure to a strange, mysterious fog. In real life, people shrink, too — but it’s not the fog that’s to blame.

Loss of height can happen for different reasons, most related to the spine. One of the most common causes of age-related loss of height is osteoporosis, or more accurately, the compression fractures osteoporosis often causes.

At Pacific Sports and Spine, our team uses a state-of-the-art procedure called kyphoplasty to treat compression fractures and the problems they can cause. If you feel like you’re shrinking, here’s what you should know about compression fractures and kyphoplasty.

Compression fractures and osteoporosis

Osteoporosis makes your bones thin, brittle, and more prone to breakage. About 50 million Americans aged 50 and older have osteoporosis. 

Although having osteoporosis increases your risk of many sorts of bone breaks, compression fractures are by far the most common type of osteoporosis-associated fractures, affecting about 700,000 Americans every year.

When osteoporosis makes your vertebrae (spine bones) thin and weak, everyday activities like lifting or climbing stairs can cause the vertebrae to collapse. For people with severe osteoporosis, even something as simple as a sneeze or cough can cause a compression fracture.

As the vertebra collapses or compresses, the height of that bone is reduced. Over time, your own height decreases, and you may even develop a hump in your upper back (a problem called kyphosis). 

Compression fractures are also a common cause of chronic back pain in older people.

How kyphoplasty works

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure that uses surgical cement to stabilize and restore damaged areas of the spine. At Pacific Sports and Spine, we perform the procedure using a local anesthetic combined with sedation to keep you completely comfortable.

Once you’re sedated, we begin by inserting a thin, hollow needle into the fractured vertebra. We use a special X-ray to guide needle placement for precision and accuracy.

After the needle is in place, we use the needle to inflate a tiny balloon. As the balloon expands, it restores the height of the vertebra and prepares the area for the next step.

We then remove the balloon and inject a special surgical cement into the space created by the balloon. The cement stabilizes your spine and maintains the height and shape of the bone.

Healing and recovery

After your procedure, you go to a recovery area for a brief period while the sedative starts to wear off. At discharge, you need to have someone with you to drive you home.

It’s common to feel some soreness in the area for a few days after your procedure. You also need to limit your activities at first to give your spine a chance to recover and heal.

Keep your spine healthy at every age

Although osteoporosis is the most common cause of spinal compression fractures, these fractures can also be the result of trauma or other underlying diseases, including some cancers. 

If you have chronic back pain with or without a loss of height, call us at either our Eugene or Roseburg, Oregon, office today.

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