Spinal Compression Fracture

Spinal compression fracture

A spinal compression fracture is a break in one of the vertebrae bones, caused by compression in the spine. They occur most frequently in the lower back due to the additional weight of the vertebrae above.

Spinal compression fracture symptoms

  • Spinal compression fracture symptoms include pain at the site of the fracture which may radiate into the hips, buttocks or thighs.
  • Neural symptoms such as numbness, tingling and weakness may be present.
  • Also, bladder or bowel symptoms may occur depending on how the fracture presses onto the spinal cord.

What is a Compression fracture of the spine?

Compression fractures, as the name suggests, occur due to a compression force on the spine. This may happen during a traumatic injury, such as a fall from a height, landing on the feet or buttocks. More frequently, vertebral compression fractures in older people with osteoporosis or other pre-existing spinal conditions where the bone is weak. There may not be one particular incident that causes it and pain may develop gradually.

Due to the weakening of the bone, the vertebra is squashed under the weight of those above it. As the bone thins, it can’t carry as much load and so spinal compression fractures occur more easily.

In patients with multiple compression fractures, they may start to develop a bent over appearance. This is because the vertebrae carry their weight through the bodies at the front and so become compressed at the front and remain the same at the back. Imagine a wedge shape!

Nerve involvement is common in both degenerative and traumatic compression fractures due to the close proximity of the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Traumatic compression fractures:

  • If you have back pain after a fall, seek medical attention. After an examination, a doctor may request an X-ray or a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Traumatic compression fractures usually require surgery to pin the vertebrae back together and avoid slippage or spinal cord injury.

Degenerative compression fractures:

  • Rest from aggravating activities. Relieve symptoms as best you can. A doctor may prescribe painkilling medication. A back support may help take some of the load off the vertebra.
  • Try to treat the osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercise and increasing calcium intake. If the vertebra collapses, there is a possibility that surgery may be necessary. A procedure called vertebroplasty may be performed. This involves injecting a cement-like material into the vertebra to stabilize the fracture and restore the height of the bone.


  • Spondylosis is a term used to describe bony overgrowths of the vertebrae which form the spinal column.
  • It has previously been known as spinal osteoarthritis although this is not technically accurate.

Read more on Spondylosis.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis is also known as Bechterew’s disease or Marie Struempell disease.
  • It is a form of chronic, degenerative arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints and often other joints of the body.

Read more on Spondylitis.

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