How Do Compression Fractures Affect Seniors?

Last updated on March 20, 2024

Have you recently noticed a senior loved one moving around more slowly or suffering from debilitating back pain? Are they struggling to bend or twist their back or have they developed a stooped-over posture?

If so, a “compression fracture” could be the nagging issue.

What is a Compression Fracture?

A compression fracture, or vertebral compression fracture, is a spinal injury that occurs when a crack or fracture develops in one or more bones that form the spine. 

Compression fractures are most common among the elderly and women. An estimated 25 percent of all post-menopausal women in the United States experience a compression fracture.

The condition can occur in a healthy person’s spine due to extreme trauma. However, older adults – especially those with weak bones or osteoporosis – may be at higher risk from potential falls or accidents. Seniors with weak bones may develop compression fractures from everyday activities such as lifting a light object or simply sneezing.

Symptoms of Compression Fractures in Seniors

Symptoms in older adults may be misunderstood or ignored because of similarities to common conditions such as arthritis. Monitor for the following symptoms:

  • New and sudden back pain that increases in intensity while upright and decrease while lying on the back
  • Limited spinal range of motion (bending or twisting the spine becomes difficult, painful, or impossible)
  • Gradual loss of height and/or stooped posture
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Difficulty walking or change in gait
  • Trouble controlling bowels or bladder

If untreated, compression fractures can impede a senior’s quality of life by leading to serious complications, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Disability and loss of independence
  • Deep vein thrombosis (dangerous blood clots)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Crowding of internal organs
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Social or emotional difficulties

How Can Seniors Avoid or Cope With Compression Fractures?

Conditions that reduce bone density or weaken the bones can increase the risk of a compression fracture, including:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Certain types of cancers
  • Inactivity and/or poor balance or posture
  • Smoking or excessive alcohol use
  • Low calcium intake or poor calcium absorption

If your loved one has any of these conditions, stay on top of their treatment to decrease their risk. If you suspect your loved one might be dealing with a vertebral compression fracture, speak with their primary care provider as soon as possible.

A compression fracture can be treated to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment is usually conservative — a short period of bed rest along with physical therapy, pain medication, and spinal braces for most cases. However, if problems persist or worsen, surgery may be an option.

How Can In-Home Care Provide Assistance?

A Visiting Angels’ senior care provider can also help your loved one take steps to avoid a compression fracture in many ways, including:

  • Reducing the risk of falling
  • Falls can lead to serious injuries in older adults. Even a mild fall can cause a compression fracture in an older adult with weaker bones. Our in-home care providers are available to assess your loved one’s home for fall risks and assist as they move around their home or community.

  • Medication reminders
  • Taking all prescribed medications and supplements can be difficult for older adults. Our caregivers can help set up medication calendars and alarms, and inform your loved one when it is time to take a medication.

  • Facilitating good nutrition
  • Maintaining a healthy diet is important for healthy bones. Our in-home care specialists can help your loved one prepare healthy meals, purchase the right ingredients, and remind them to follow medically recommended diets.

  • Staying active
  • A proper activity level is important for maintaining bone health and reducing a senior’s risk. Our caregivers can help encourage your loved one to exercise at an appropriate level while monitoring them throughout their exercise sessions.

  • Light housekeeping
  • For some older adults, housekeeping activities may become too much to handle. If your loved one needs additional support while recovering, our personal caregivers can pick up the slack and take care of the laundry, clean bathrooms and floors, and handle other light housekeeping duties.

Taking steps to avoid a painful compression fracture — including hiring an in-home personal caregiver — can help your loved one maintain mobility, health, and quality of life.

Contact us today! Our home care coordinators are available to discuss your senior’s needs via a free home care consultation.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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