Compression Fractures

When a vertebra in the back gets compressed enough to break, it is called a compression fracture. The most common cause of compression fractures is osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become fragile. Fractures resulting from major trauma such as a fall from a high place, a car accident or other trauma should be treated in the Emergency Room.

Osteoporosis is more common in women, and about half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the vertebra, hip, wrist, or forearm during their lifetime. In its early stages, osteoporosis causes no symptoms, and sometimes fractures are not discovered until an X-ray is taken for another reason.

Traumatic injuries and cancerous tumors can also cause compression fractures. 

Treating Compression Fractures

Pain from compression fractures caused by osteoporosis is often treated with:

  • Pain medicine
  • Limited bed rest, followed by gradually increased activity
  • Physical therapy to improve movement and muscle strength around the spine, and to help maintain mobility with limited pain

Physical therapy for compression fractures is aimed at improving movement and strengthening muscles around the spine. At our spine clinic, we design our physical therapy treatment plans based on each individual’s specific needs.

Most painful compression fractures become painless after 6 to 8 weeks. In rare cases, outpatient procedures such as verebrosplasty or balloon kyphoplasty may be needed.

Surgical treatments for spine pain include spinal fusion, which can dramatically ease severe pain and disabling symptoms of compression fractures.

Osteoporosis medications and calcium supplements can help prevent further fractures, but cannot reverse the damage already done.

For more information about compression fractures you can contact the Spine Center at Virginia Mason by calling (206) 417-7463.