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Compression Fractures of the Spine

(Spine Fracture)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019
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Your spine is your backbone. It's made up of a lot of small bones stacked up like building blocks.

What is a compression fracture of the spine?

Something that's compressed is squashed down. If you compress something that's hard, it can crack. So a compression fracture of the spine is when one of the bones in your spine is squashed down and cracked.

  • Compression fractures of the spine usually happen in the middle or lower back

  • Usually they happen in older people, especially those with back bones weakened by osteoporosis or cancer

  • When back bones are weakened, it doesn't take much force to cause a compression fracture

  • You may not remember hurting yourself

  • Usually your back hurts, but you may not have any pain

What causes compression fractures of the spine?

Common causes:

  • Lifting something

  • Falling, especially if you land on your feet, which puts pressure on your spine and may also cause a broken heel

Less often, compression fractures are caused by serious injuries, such as car crashes or gunshots.

You're at higher risk if you have:

If you're at high risk, you can get a compression fracture just from stumbling, twisting, or getting out of bed. You may not even know what caused the fracture.

What are the symptoms of a compression fracture of the spine?

If your compression fracture was caused by osteoporosis, you may have no pain or symptoms. Fractures caused by an injury usually hurt. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • A rounded back and trouble standing up straight

  • Back pain, especially when the back is tapped

  • Muscle spasms

How can doctors tell if I have a compression fracture?

Doctors do:

To check if you have osteoporosis, doctors may do a DXA scan, a quick, painless test to check your bone density.

How do doctors treat compression fractures of the spine?

Doctors treat compression fractures of the spine with:

  • Pain medicine

  • Sometimes, a back brace or bed rest

  • Sometimes, injections of bone cement into your back to strengthen your spine or improve your posture

If you have osteoporosis, doctors will want to prevent more fractures, so they'll treat you with:

  • Medicine to keep your bone from getting weaker or less dense

Doctors may also suggest physical therapy.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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