Synergy Spine and Pain Center


Spinal compression fractures are a common and often debilitating condition that affects the vertebrae, the small bones that make up the spine. These fractures occur when the vertebrae collapse, leading to severe pain, reduced mobility, and potential complications if left untreated. This article will explore the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for spinal compression fractures, providing a comprehensive understanding of this medical issue.

Causes of Spinal Compression Fractures


Osteoporosis is the most common cause of spinal compression fractures. This condition weakens bones, making them more susceptible to fractures even with minimal trauma or normal daily activities. As the vertebrae become porous and brittle, they can easily collapse under the pressure of the body’s weight.


Acute trauma, such as a fall, car accident, or sports injury, can lead to spinal compression fractures. In such cases, the force exerted on the spine is sufficient to cause the vertebrae to collapse or fracture.


Certain cancers, particularly those that metastasize to the bones, can weaken the vertebrae and increase the risk of compression fractures. Multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, is also known to affect the spine and lead to fractures.

Other Conditions

Conditions such as infections (osteomyelitis) or long-term use of corticosteroids can also contribute to the weakening of the vertebrae, making them more prone to compression fractures.

   Symptoms of Spinal Compression Fractures


The most common symptom of a spinal compression fracture is sudden and severe back pain. The pain is usually localized to the area of the fracture and can radiate to other parts of the back, sides, or abdomen.

    Decreased Mobility

Individuals with spinal compression fractures often experience a decrease in mobility and flexibility. Activities that involve bending, lifting, or twisting may become difficult and painful.

    Height Loss

Multiple compression fractures can lead to a noticeable loss of height as the vertebrae collapse and the spine shortens.


Severe or multiple compression fractures can result in kyphosis, an abnormal forward curvature of the spine, commonly referred to as a “hunchback” appearance. This can lead to further pain and complications related to posture and balance.

  Neurological Symptoms

In some cases, the fractured vertebrae can press on the spinal cord or nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, as well as bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Diagnosis of Spinal Compression Fractures

     Medical History and Physical Examination

Diagnosis typically begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination. The doctor will assess the patient’s symptoms, medical background, and any recent injuries or conditions that may contribute to the fracture.

    Imaging Tests

To confirm a diagnosis, imaging tests are usually required. These may include:

 –     X-rays      : To visualize the alignment and integrity of the vertebrae.

–     MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging )      : To provide detailed images of the bones, discs, and soft tissues, helping to identify fractures and any potential nerve involvement.

–     CT (Computed Tomography) Scan         : To obtain cross-sectional images of the spine for a more detailed assessment of the fracture.

    Bone Density Test

In cases where osteoporosis is suspected, a bone density test (DEXA scan) may be performed to measure the strength and density of the bones.

Treatment Options for Spinal Compression Fractures

  Conservative Treatments

 For many patients, conservative treatments are effective in managing spinal compression fractures. These may include:

–     Pain Medication    : Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to manage pain and inflammation.

–     Rest          : Short periods of rest to allow the fracture to heal, though prolonged bed rest is usually discouraged to prevent muscle weakness and further complications.

–     Bracing     : Wearing a back brace to support the spine and reduce movement during the healing process.

–     Physical Therapy  : Gentle exercises and physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles, improve mobility, and support recovery.

    Minimally Invasive Procedures

If conservative treatments are not effective or the fracture is severe, minimally invasive procedures may be considered:

–     Vertebroplasty      : A procedure in which a special cement is injected into the fractured vertebra to stabilize it and relieve pain.

–     Kyphoplasty          : Similar to vertebroplasty, but with the additional step of using a balloon to create space before injecting the cement, which can also help restore some height to the collapsed vertebra.


 In rare cases where the fracture is severe and causing significant neurological symptoms, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical options include spinal fusion or the placement of metal rods and screws to stabilize the spine.

 Prevention of Spinal Compression Fractures

  Bone Health

Maintaining good bone health is crucial in preventing spinal compression fractures. This includes:

 –     Adequate Calcium and Vitamin D           : Ensuring sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D to support bone strength.

–     Regular Exercise  : Engaging in weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to maintain bone density and overall health.

–     Avoiding Smoking and Excessive Alcohol           : Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken bones and should be avoided.

  Fall Prevention

 For individuals at risk of osteoporosis or with a history of falls, implementing fall prevention strategies is essential. This may include:

– Home Safety: Removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, and ensuring proper lighting.

– Balance and Strength Training: Participating in exercises to improve balance and muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls.

 Medical Management

 For those diagnosed with osteoporosis, medical management may include medications such as bisphosphonates or hormone therapy to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.


Spinal compression fractures are a significant health concern, particularly for individuals with osteoporosis or those who have experienced trauma. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is essential for managing this condition effectively. With proper medical care and preventive measures, individuals can reduce their risk of spinal compression fractures and maintain a better quality of life. If you suspect you have a spinal compression fracture or are at risk, consult with a healthcare professional to develop an appropriate treatment and prevention plan.

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