A compression fracture occurs when there is a break of the vertebral body. It will cause back pain that often is associated with radiation of pain. Compression fractures can cause a permanent change in posture, loss of height, chronic back pain, stenosis, and radiculopathic pain.

Compression fractures occur either due to trauma or osteoporosis. The thinning of the bone from osteoporosis causes it to be weak and therefore be more fragile.

Symptoms that a person will present with are back or neck pain that can radiate into the arms or legs or around the side to the abdomen. Severe compression fractures can cause impingement upon the spinal cord causing numbness, weakness, and even loss of balance or bladder function. It is not suggested to leave the fracture to heal on its own. As the fracture is healing it is still moving therefore not only causing the patient continued pain but the fracture may get worse causing more severe long term complications. The complications include poor posture, chronic pain, reduction in mobility, or spinal stenosis that may require surgery.

When the fracture occurs it is considered acute and remains acute for about 8 weeks afterwards. Treatment options depend on the severity of the fracture. It can range from wearing a brace until the fracture is healed or having surgery. Once the fracture has healed or has been surgically corrected it is considered to be chronic. The patient may always have some back pain or radicular symptoms as a result.

It is recommended the patient does one of the following:

  • Wear a brace until the fracture heals (This is like placing a cast on a broken foot). This usually takes 6-8 weeks.

  • Undergo a 30 minute procedure in the operating room called a Kyphoplasty . This procedure injects cement into the broken bone to hold it stable so it no longer moves and stops the pain.

  • For severe compression fractures that cause weakness, stenosis, and loss of bladder or bowel functions, the patient must undergo a decompression and fusion of the spine.