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.
A vertebral compression fracture can be caused by:
Factors that increase your chance of vertebral compression fractures include:
Symptoms may include:
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:
You may be tested to determine if you have osteoporosis. This can be done with a bone mineral density test.
Vertebroplasty 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.
In kyphoplasty, 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:
To prevent further bone loss, medications may include:
The following may also be advised:
Building strong bones 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:
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Women's Health Matters
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. NEJM. 2009;361(6):557-568.
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. NEJM. 2009;361(6):569-579.
Sweet MG, Sweet JM. Diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(3):193-200.
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. Lancet. 373(9668):1016-1024.
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. 2009;361(6):557-568.
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.