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Bracing for Spinal Compression Fractures Might Not be Necessary

Osteoporosis-related compression fractures in the spine are often treated with bracing. But a recent study shows patients who wore the braces did no better than patients who did not.
The study, published December 3, 2014 in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, found that patients with the spinal compression fractures who wore braces had similar results in terms of pain, function and healing as those who were brace-free during treatment.

Spinal compression fractures are common, especially among elderly women. These fractures often occur in the front part of the spine and are nearly twice as common as osteoporosis-related hip and wrist fractures. Many suffering with spinal compression fractures are told to wear soft or rigid braces. The thinking is the braces will stabilize the spine, reduce pain and prevent further damage. The downside for patients is many find the braces are uncomfortable and might not wear them regularly, if at all. Long-term use of the braces also can cause muscle loss due to lack of muscle use and dependence on the bracing. Other problems with the braces: They can cause skin irritation, stop people from exercising and delay rehabilitation.

Korean researchers studied 60 patients, 65 years and older, with acute osteoporotic compression fractures. Patients were put into one of three groups: those who wore soft braces, those who wore rigid braces and those who wore no braces. The researchers measured patients’ pain levels and mobility at 12 weeks.

Not only did they find comparable results in all three groups for pain and mobility, but the researchers also did not find notable differences in spinal compression, general health or patient satisfaction.

“In addition to the cost and discomfort associated with braces, the findings in this study suggest that brace treatment for osteoporotic compression fractures may not provide any additional improvement in fracture healing, mobility and pain,” Dr. Ho-Joong Kim, orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor, Seoul National University College of Medicine, said in a press release.

Physical therapists are trained to help people prevent and recover from osteoporotic fractures of the spine, hip and wrist. Physical therapy programs include strength and flexibility building, as well as a focus on balance to prevent falls. For more information on what a physical therapist can do to improve your strength, function, mobility, independence and overall well-being, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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