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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:
Other than trauma, osteoporosis is the main cause of most vertebral compression fractures.
Factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis include:
Symptoms may include mild-to-severe pain in the middle or lower back.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Test may include:
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.
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.
Your doctor may prescribe:
To prevent further bone loss, medicines may include:
Your doctor may also recommend the following to maintain your 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.
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Women's Health Matters
American Medical Association website. Available at:
http://www.ama-assn.org. Accessed July 8, 2009.
Bone resource page. National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/default.asp. Updated November 2007. Accessed July 8, 2009.
Buchbinder R, Osborne RH, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for painful osteoporotic vertebral fractures.
Kallmes DF, Comstock BA, et al. A randomized trial of vertebroplasty for osteoporotic spinal fractures.
National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Washington, DC: National Osteoporosis Foundation; 2010.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin. No. 50; 2004.
Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(3):201-202.
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.
11/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: 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 September 2012 by John C. Keel, 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.
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