Your doctor will perform a physical exam. This may show:
A humpback, or kyphosis
Tenderness over the affected spinal bone or bones
A spine x-ray shows at least one compressed vertebra that is shorter than the other vertebrae.
Other tests that may be done:
A bone density test to evaluate for osteoporosis
A CT or MRI scan if there is concern that the fracture was caused by a tumor or severe trauma (such as a fall or car accident)
Most compression fractures are seen in older people with osteoporosis. These fractures often do not cause injury to the spinal cord. The condition is usually treated with medicines and calcium supplements to prevent further fractures.
Pain may be treated with:
Other treatments may include:
Back braces, but these may further weaken the bones and increase the risk of more fractures
Physical therapy to improve movement and strength around the spine
A medicine called calcitonin to help relieve bone pain
Surgery may be done if you have severe and disabling pain for more than 2 months that does not get better with other treatments. Surgery can include:
Klazen CA, Lohle PN, de Vries J, et al. Vertebroplasty versus conservative treatment in acute osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures (Vertos II): an open-label randomised trial. Lancet. 2010 Sep 25;376(9746):1085-92.
Wardlaw D, Cummings SR, Van Meirhaeghe J, et al. Efficacy and safety of balloon kyphoplasty compared with non-surgical care for vertebral compression fracture (FREE): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2009;373(9668):1016-24.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.