If you have suffered a fractured vertebra, sitting at your desk job all day may sound like torture. Luckily, there are some things you can do to relieve your back pain while sitting and help the compression fracture to heal more quickly.
Sitting incorrectly can worsen the fracture, so you must understand the best ergonomic way to sit with a fractured vertebra. Read this piece to understand the best way to sit with your injury, and some tips for relieving pain and preventing another fracture in the future.
What Is a Fractured Vertebrae?
Fractured vertebrae, also called vertebral compression fractures, occur when the vertebral body in the spine collapses. A fractured vertebra leads to severe pain and discomfort. These fractures happen most frequently in the middle of the spine, which will affect how you sit and how to sit comfortably without causing more spinal damage.
These are common symptoms of a fractured vertebrae:
- Back pain
- Pain when standing or walking
- Relief when lying on your back
- Limited spinal mobility
- Gradual height loss
A vertebral compression fraction can eventually lead to deformity or disability if not properly managed. Learning the correct way to sit with this injury, along with other aftercare habits, is the key to helping your spine heal.
The Correct Way to Sit with a Fractured Vertebrae
Practice Neutral Spine Position
The neutral spine position is when all of your vertebrae perfectly line up on top of one another with no unnatural curvature.
Sitting in this position will result in the least amount of pain and pressure on your vertebrae. You may still experience some pain when twisting or turning, but this is still the best position for your spinal health and recovery.
The Imaginary Book
To achieve the neutral spine position, you can imagine a book on top of your head that you need to balance. If you would like, you can use a book to get used to the position. But because of your injury, use the lightest book you can find (but no paperbacks!).
The Importance of the Right Chair
Even if you don’t have fractured vertebrae, that chair you sit in all day long needs to be ergonomic and comfortable. At the end of the day, the neutral spine position and the imaginary book can only do so much if you use harmful furniture.
Having an ergonomic office chair is essential to your spinal health and general comfort while at work.
Other Aftercare Advice
The R.I.C.E. method is recommended by doctors for most injuries, whether it’s a muscle, tendon, ligament, or bone injury.
For a fractured vertebra, it is also recommended you apply heat too.
This one speaks for itself. Do not do any extraneous physical activity: no yard work, no sports, no exercise except for physical therapy, no lifting heavy objects.
Using an ice pack or bag filled with crushed ice, ice your injured area for 15-20 minutes once an hour. Apply heat for 20-30 minutes every two hours. The ice will reduce swelling and prevent tissue damage, while the heat will reduce pain and muscle spasms.
Keeping things wrapped tightly helps your body heal because there is less wiggle room for the injury to persist.
In this case, compression means a sturdy back brace to keep your spine in line. This will help maintain the neutral spine position.
You may be wondering how one can elevate their back, but this essentially means relieving the pressure on your vertebrae caused by standing or sitting.
Upright positions push the vertebra together to hold you up, so it’s best to be horizontal whenever possible. Laying down will relieve the pain and pressure and allow the vertebrae to heal faster.
Medicines That Can Help
NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and Advil. These will relieve some of the pain and help reduce any fever or swelling. Always check with your doctor before regularly dosing yourself with something because these medicines can thin your blood or damage your kidneys.
You will need a prescription from a doctor for this, but it can do a lot to help reduce the pain and decrease fever if you have one. Acetaminophen is a step above NSAIDs if you are experiencing higher pain levels.
Prescription Pain Medicine
Prescription pain medicines are prescribed by your doctor and will target your back pain. Drugs like Vicodin, oxycodone, and fentanyl can all help relieve pain symptoms of a fractured vertebra.
These drugs can come with other side effects, so do not seek them out yourself, and make sure you discuss all possible side effects with your doctor.
Bisphosphonates and Calcitonin
If your fracture was caused by osteoporosis, these medications help strengthen your bones. Because the medicines supplement bone health, they may relieve some of your back pain as well.
Bisphosphonates and calcitonin will reduce the likelihood of another vertebral compression fracture, and many people continue to take them after the injury has healed.
Causes of Fractured Vertebrae
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. People that suffer from this can experience fractured vertebrae simply by falling, bending over too quickly, or from sudden stress like a sharp cough.
For those with healthy spines and bones, fractured vertebrae are most commonly caused by some sort of trauma like a car accident or sports injury.
Metastatic tumors are spinal tumors that can cause vertebrae to weaken or crack under pressure. Doctors usually look for this in young patients with back pain because it is less likely to be osteoporosis.
If you have suffered a vertebral compression fracture, do not go about your normal habits and expect it to heal quickly. If you want to improve your overall spinal health and reduce the pain of this injury, you need to sit properly throughout the day.
Follow all the tips in this article, and your back pain should decrease while your spine works to heal itself. And remember, without a proper ergonomic chair, your spinal health will forever be in danger.