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Vertebral compression fracture
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By Rik Anderson
From C/S, Colorado/Talkeetna, Alask
Apr 24, 2012
underground
My back has been hurting for some time now so i went and got a MRI done. I just received the results today and they told me I had a compression fracture on a vertebrae (T-8 I think). They asked me if I had been in an accident or had fallen from a height and landed on the ground. I thought back and neither had happened to me. I mentioned that I climb,kinda in a joking manner, the response I got was, that was probably the culprit. I have never taken a fall that I believe would produce enough force to fracture a vertebrae. Has anyone else ever heard of a fall on rope producing such an injury? Also if anyone has had a compression fracture, has it slowed down your climbing at all. If so, to what degree.

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By PTZ
From Chicago/Colorado
Apr 24, 2012
Where? Wouldn't you like to know. You have to buy ...
My Dad fell out of a tree hunting last fall.He smashed one of his lower verts. For him, his problem was the drop foot(common in older people, from the bed rest)which slowed him down. He has been in pain for about 5 months. It is just a matter of time to get the Vert to bounce back up, It has a big dent in it.
Sorry to hear but it may be a tough and painful road. He wore a clamshell plastic fitted brace for about 4 months. Now has a cane just in case and still does therapy.
We have talked to others that say they bounced back fine. It just took a long time. He has a tore rotator from rolling out of the woods so he has multiple therapies and that slowed his recovery. Take it easy and good luck.

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By SMR
Apr 24, 2012
What is your bone density? Most VCFs with healthy bone would be likely due to a trauma or car accident. Did you have even a short but hard fall landing on your feet or butt?

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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Apr 24, 2012
Me and Spearhead
That's definitely a little concerning if you have been diagnosed w/ a compression fx and don't have a history of acute trauma.
Compression fractures don't just happen w/ no reason.

I'd be concerned that it's a pathological fx and would say don't just let it go. Look for someone that can give you a better answer than..."you fx your vertebra, let it heal".

Hopefully the doc that made the diagnoses gave you more info and some ideas.

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By Chris treggE
Administrator
From Madison, WI
Apr 24, 2012
Other fun stuff.
Apgar is right on.

Very strange to have a compression fracture without any trauma. Infection and tumor come to mind. Or some type of bone mineralization disorder. See your regular doctor and don't allow anyone to say this is normal from rock climbing. Ask to see an endocrinologist if you don't get a satisfactory answer.

And to answer your second question. Yes I had a mid thoracic compression fracture once. It hurt for 6-8 weeks, then gone. No residual problems, no pain, don't ever think about it.

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By PRRose
From Boulder
Apr 24, 2012
It is definitely possible to have a compression fracture from a roped fall without hitting anything and without any underlying pathology, but it couldn't hurt to have other possible contributing factors investigated.

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By Rik Anderson
From C/S, Colorado/Talkeetna, Alask
Apr 24, 2012
underground
I have no idea what my bone density is. I've always thought my bones were strong. I guess I was wrong. No car wrecks. The only falling that I've ever done and hit the ground was bouldering. 90% of the time it has been under 8 ft. and onto a pad. That's really the only times I can think of but, I never remember having any pain after bouldering, or being on rope.
This was a self referral to the MRI. I saw my Ortho in CO before I came back up to AK and mentioned that I had some pain for over a year, his response was it was probably due to having bad posture. Hmmm... I didn't like his response so I scheduled a MRI on my own. Now my problem is that I live in Tok, AK and the closest place is 205 miles away in Fairbanks and there isn't any good Ortho's there. What type of infection could cause bone degeneration? I know some cancers can cause the bones to weaken, since my father is battling multiple mylomea.
PR- how big of a fall would you have to take or I guess I should ask, what fall factor do you think it would take to generate enough force to create a fracture?
I'm just concerned that if I continue to climb I'm going to really injure myself, and as we all know, climbing is a way of life.

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By Couloirman
From Providence, RI
Apr 24, 2012
speedriding vail pass
Lots of people have old compression fractures and have no idea even. You definitely want to make sure you don't have some type of bone degeneration disorder but if you're healthy otherwise it shouldn't slow you down at all. I had a bad accident 2-3 years ago and compresion fractured T10-L2 and broke a lot of other stuff as well. I'm climbing as hard as I ever have in my life and can still deadlift over 400 lbs. Just make sure to keep your abs, obliques, and spinal erectors strong and you shouldn't have an issue if your only problem is an old, healed compression fracture of a single vertebra.

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By PRRose
From Boulder
Apr 24, 2012
Rik Anderson wrote:
PR- how big of a fall would you have to take or I guess I should ask, what fall factor do you think it would take to generate enough force to create a fracture? I'm just concerned that if I continue to climb I'm going to really injure myself, and as we all know, climbing is a way of life.


Mine was a long fall--40 feet or so. Also fairly high fall factor, as it was either directly onto the belay or possibly on a piece very close to the belay (it was a long time ago and I don't recall all the specifics). OTOH, it was an old school hip belay so likely very dynamic.

The spinal fracture was likely caused by hyperextension, so it might not have been the severity of fall, but the way in which I fell. I was climbing again within a few months.

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By Rik Anderson
From C/S, Colorado/Talkeetna, Alask
Apr 24, 2012
underground
Thank you all, for the responses. It eases my mind knowing that I'll still be able to climb without much worry. I'll definetly will look into getting a full work-up to make sure there is no other underlying problems. (cross my fingers) I guess I'll just relax for a few more weeks before I get out again.

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By Brent Apgar
From Out of the Loop
Apr 24, 2012
Me and Spearhead
Rik, not trying to freak you out. Just being a little on the conservative side. Though, now that you've said that the pain has been going on for a year or so, I'm thinking that it may actually be more musculoskeletal.

I hate to say it but docs sometimes make up shit because patients expect an answer. Compression fractures can be very subtle on imaging and things that aren't actual fractures can look like one so it's possible also that there isn't a true fracture and that the first doc was more right in the sense that it's either a joint or muscular problem.
If you're generally healthy a fracture would heal on it's own like Chris described.
good luck sorting this out.

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By Lee Green
Apr 25, 2012
What Brent said. You shouldn't have a compression fracture, and you definitely shouldn't have a T-8 fracture. ("T" stands for thorax. The ribs and associated strong connective tissues of the chest make the thoracic vertebrae rarely fractured short of motor vehicle or other high-velocity impact injuries.) You'll want to get that checked out promptly, if it's a real fracture and not just an "incidentaloma" on MRI.

(ps I pay for my climbing gear by practicing medicine)

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By Rik Anderson
From C/S, Colorado/Talkeetna, Alask
May 18, 2012
underground
Well I now know what's actually causing the pain. In addition to a compression fracture of T-8(which has been verified by 2 ortho docs), I also have bulging discs between T8-T10 which is the culprit for the pain. I'm still not sure what I did to cause this but the only thing that I've done that possibly caused it was a fall at some point in my climbing life. Make sure your belay is nice and dynamic. :-)

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By JSH
Administrator
May 18, 2012
JSH @ home  photo courtesy of Gabe Ostriker
Have you had your bone density measured?

I just don't think that much damage happens from trauma without you noticing it. I'd still be looking for another cause, like osteoporosis. If you don't treat whatever reason your vertebra fractured, it could easily happen again.

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By Paul Trendler
From Bend, Oregon
May 18, 2012
 VOTCD. Photo  by tylerroemer.com
Some great posts are listed above, and I definitely agree with staying conservative in your healing process. I had three anterior compression fracture (T4, T5, T6), and while it set me back a bit, I am climbing better now than before the injury.

Hopefully you can figure out whats going on, and get better soon!

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By Em Cos
From Boulder, CO
May 18, 2012
I had compression fractures in T- 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9, and I got them in a climbing fall, not a car accident. I wish I'd known at the time that they "shouldn't" be fractured, would've saved me a lot of pain and PT. My point is that unusual and unexpected things can happen, if you have multiple Dr.s telling you you have a fracture, you should probably take care of that.

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By James Crump
May 18, 2012
Mine were caused by sex. Or maybe it was a lack of sex... I forget...
Yeah what about sex?

Can you correlate your pain to having had sex? If so, tell us more. Maybe us Internet authorities can help...

Forgive my bad humor, but i can tell you it sucks to have damaged Vs. not being able to blame it on climbing, at least sex would give you an entertaining story to tell...

Hope that helps.

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