The bones of the back are called the vertebrae. A vertebral fracture is a break in one of these bones. A vertebral compression fracture occurs when the front part of the bone is squeezed or compressed.
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A vertebral compression fracture can be caused by: Osteoporosis
—a condition of weakened bones
A blow to the backFalling downLanding on your heels when jumping from a heightHaving major trauma such as a motor vehicle accident
Factors that increase your chance of vertebral compression fractures include: OsteoporosisTraumaCancerUse of antipsychotic medicationsProton pump inhibitorsPoor mental functioningPoor mobilityPoor strengthPrevious vertebral fracture within the last year
Symptoms may include: Mild to severe pain in the middle or lower backNumbness, tingling, or weaknessDifficulty walkingLoss of control of the bowel or bladder
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: X-raysMRI scanCT scanBone scan
You may be tested to determine if you have osteoporosis. This can be done with a
bone mineral density test
involves liquid cement being injected into the vertebra. It can help relieve the pain associated with vertebral fractures. It is not suitable for everyone. The procedure may be best for recent fractures. Talk with your doctor to see if this option may be right for you.
For example, it may not be as helpful in people whose fractures are due to osteoporosis.
, a balloon is used to create a cavity. The cement is injected into the cavity. This procedure is designed to relieve pain. It can also improve spinal deformities from the fractures.
Spinal fusion may be used to join together two or more bones in the spine. This procedure stops the bones from moving.
Your doctor may advise: A brief period of bed rest and a decrease in activityMedication to control the painStrengthening exercises
for your back muscles
A back brace
To prevent further bone loss, medications may include: Estrogen/progesterone hormone replacement therapyBisphosphonates to prevent loss of bone massEstrogen agonist/antagonist to treat weak or thin bonesCalcitonin
to regulate calcium levels in the bodyParathyroid hormone to regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the body
The following may also be advised:
Vitamin and mineral supplements, especially
vitamin DLifestyle changes
—These may include weight-bearing and resistance exercises for both the upper and lower extremities.
will help prevent fractures. However, most bone strength is attained by women before they are 25 years old. That makes maintaining bone density and strength at older ages even more important.
Follow these prevention guidelines: Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, jogging, or sports such as tennis.Do resistance exercises for arms and legs. This will help to improve your strength and balance.
Get plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in your diet. Talk to your doctor if you think you need
If you have osteoporosis, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you had an early
, talk to your doctor about this.
, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
Drink alcohol only in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women.Remove any obstacles in your home that could cause you to fall. These may include throw rugs or furniture.
Bone basics. National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Basics. Accessed November 25, 2013.
Buchbinder R, Osborne RH, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for painful osteoporotic vertebral fractures.
Committee on Practice Bulletins-Gynecology, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice bulletin 129. Osteoporosis. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120(3):718-734. Reaffirmed 2014.
Kallmes DF, Comstock BA, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for osteoporotic spinal fractures.
Sweet MG, Sweet JM. Diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis.
Am Fam Physician.
Ullom-Minnich P. Prevention of osteoporosis and fractures.
Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(1):194-202.
Wardlaw D, Cummings SR, et al. Efficacy and safety of balloon kyphoplasty compared with non-surgical care for vertebral compression fracture (FREE): a randomised controlled trial.
11/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Buchbinder R, Osborne RH, Ebeling PR, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for painful osteoporotic vertebral fractures.
N Engl J Med.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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