In both younger and older patients, vertebral fractures take weeks to heal with rest and pain relievers. Compression fractures of vertebrae associated with osteoporosis can also be treated with a procedure called vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, which can help to reduce pain. In this procedure, a balloon is inflated in the compressed vertebra, often returning some of its lost height. Subsequently, a "cement" (methymethacrylate) is injected into the balloon and remains to retain the structure and height of the body of the vertebra. Pain is relieved as the height of the collapsed vertebra is restored.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammation of the spine that may gradually result in a fusion of vertebrae. Symptoms include a slow development of back discomfort, with pain lasting for more than 3 months. The back is usually stiff in the morning; pain improves with movement or exercise. In severe cases, the patient stands or sits stooped over. It can be quite mild, however, and it rarely affects a person's ability to work. It occurs mostly in young Caucasians in their mid-20s. The disease is more common in men, but about 30% of the cases are in women. Researchers believe that in most cases the cause is hereditary.