What You Should Know About Spinal Compression Fractures

A compression fracture may occur in your spine as a result of weakened vertebrae. In people over 50, osteoporosis is one of the most common causes of vertebral compression fractures, and it's more common than you may think in people ages 40 to 50.

We recently added a Spinal Compression Fracture Video to our Spine-health Video Library to help you understand this condition.

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Certain conditions, like osteoporosis or cancer, can weaken the vertebrae.

See What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

See Could My Back Pain Be Spine Cancer?

Once the bone has weakened, it may no longer be able to support the spinal column in daily activities. A compression fracture, which looks like this, may occur.

A compression fracture may occur anywhere along the spine, but the most common areas for it to occur in are the thoracic region, pictured here, including the T1 through T12 vertebrae, or in the lumbar region of the spine, pictured below.

This image shows the the L1 through L5 vertebrae in the lumbar spine. Compression fractures rarely occur above the T7 level of the spine.

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As you can see in this image, the fracture often results in a wedge-shaped vertebral body as a result of the front of the spinal column collapsing (or compressing) while the back of the bone remains unchanged. These fractures can occur in one or more vertebrae.

There may be many differing symptoms of a spinal compression fracture. The first sign is usually a severe acute back pain that feels better with rest. The area around the fracture may be sensitive to touch.

See Vertebral Fracture Symptoms

Rarely, a collapsed vertebra may be compressing one or more nerves, sending radiating pain down the path of the nerve into the arms or legs.

See Radiculopathy, Radiculitis and Radicular Pain

Pain when twisting or bending, loss of height, and a hunched forward position, called kyphosis, can also be common symptoms of a compression fracture.

Read more:

Osteoporosis: The Primary Cause of Collapsed Vertebrae

Osteoporosis Treatment

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