A compression fracture is a fracture that results from the compression of bone in your spine.

Our video walk-through can help you visualize this injury that is particularly common in postmenopausal women.

See When Back Pain Is a Spine Compression Fracture

A spinal fracture may also be referred to as a vertebral fracture, osteoporotic fracture, or wedge fracture. Watch: Spinal Compression Fracture Video


Video highlights

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

See Osteoporosis: The Primary Cause of Collapsed Vertebrae

Once the bone has weakened, it may no longer be able to support your spinal column as you go about your daily activities. As a result, a compression fracture (pictured above) may occur.

See Spinal Cord and Spinal Nerve Roots

Location of the fracture

A compression fracture can occur anywhere along your spine. But the most common areas for it to occur are in the thoracic region (pictured above), which includes the T1-T12 vertebrae; and lumbar region of the spine (pictured below).

Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

The above image pictures the L1-L5 vertebrae in the lumbar spine. It is important to note that compression fractures rarely occur above the T7 level of the spine.

See Vertebrae in the Vertebral Column

As you can see in the above image, a compression fracture often results in a wedge-shaped vertebral body. This is the result of the front of the spinal column collapsing (or compressing), while the back of the bone remains unchanged. Compression fractures may occur in one or more of your vertebrae.

Symptoms from a spinal compression fracture

Symptoms from a spinal compression fracture can vary. However, the first indication is usually severe back pain that feels better with rest. The area around your fracture may also be sensitive to touch.

Vertebral Fracture Symptoms

Rarely, a collapsed vertebra may compress one or more of your nerves. This in turn can send radiating pain down the path of the nerve and into your arms or legs.

Causes of Leg Pain and Foot Pain

Pain when twisting or bending, loss of height, and a hunched forward position, called kyphosis, may also result from a spinal compression fracture.

See Kyphosis Causes and Treatment

Treatment options

Treatment options for a spinal compression fracture include the following:

  • Rest
  • Pain medication
  • Heat and/or cold therapy
  • Surgery

See Compression Fracture Treatment

Learn more:

Diagnosing Vertebral Compression Fractures

Multiple Compression Fractures