Spinal Compression Fracture

Overview

A spinal compression fracture means that one or more of the bones that make up your spine (your vertebrae) has collapsed or shattered. It most often occurs in the low-to-mid portion of your spine, which doctors call the thoracic spine. Spinal compression fractures typically happen when your vertebrae become injured or weakened by conditions like osteoporosis or bone cancer. 

Symptoms

Depending on where the fracture occurs, you could develop a condition called kyphosis, where the shape of your spine becomes deformed, giving you a humped, hunched-over appearance.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sharp, debilitating back pain. The pain may be intense when the fracture occurs, and then gradually go away as it heals.
  • Back pain that gets worse with standing or walking.
  • Loss of height.
  • Loss of mobility.
  • Pain in other parts of your body, like your abdomen, if the fracture has affected your internal organs.

Diagnosis

You might need a CT, MRI or X-ray scan to determine if you have a spinal compression fracture. If your doctor suspects that your fracture was caused by an underlying medical problem (like bone cancer), he or she may also order a biopsy or other tests.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture. To start, your doctor may try non-surgical options, including rest and prescription medication to help reduce your pain and improve your bone density.
If your condition is more severe or persistent, you may need surgery, such as:

  • Vertebroplasty: Your doctor injects a medical-grade substance called bone cement, which “glues” the spine in its proper position to reduce pain and bone deformity.
  • Kyphoplasty: First a balloon is inserted into the affected area to decompress your spine and allow you to regain lost height. Then your doctor will inject bone cement to stabilize your vertebrae.
  • Spinal fusion: Your doctor will permanently adhere your vertebrae together in a fixed position.


Find Spine Care Near You

When you have degenerative disc disease, the Aurora Back and Spine Program makes it easier for you to get back to the things that matter most. With a single entry point and your own care coordinator, you’ll be connected to an integrated team of specialists all working together on your personalized treatment plan. Learn more about our program locations in eastern Wisconsin:

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