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Neurosciences and Behavioral Health Center

Vertebral Compression Fracture

A vertebral fracture is a break in one of the bones in your back. A vertebral compression fracture occurs when the front part of the bone is squeezed or compressed.

A vertebral compression fracture can be caused by:

  • Osteoporosis 
  • A blow to the back
  • Falling down
  • Landing on your heels when jumping from a height
  • Having major trauma such as a motor vehicle accident

Factors that increase your risk of vertebral compression fractures include:

  • Cancer
  • Use of antipsychotic medications
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Poor mental functioning
  • Poor mobility
  • Poor strength
  • Previous vertebral fracture within the last year

Vertebral Compression Fracture Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Mild to severe pain in the middle or lower back
  • Numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history and perform physical exam. Your doctor may also take images of your bodily structures with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan

Your doctor may also conduct a bone mineral density test to test you for osteoporosis.


During vertebroplasty, your doctor injects liquid cement into the vertebra to help relieve your pain. This procedure may be best for recent fractures and is not suitable for everyone.

In kyphoplasty, your doctor uses a balloon to create a cavity. Your doctor then injects cement into the cavity to relieve your pain. This procedure can also improve spinal deformities from the fractures.

Your doctor may use spinal fusion to join together two or more bones in the spine. This procedure stops the bones from moving.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Your doctor may advise:

  • A brief period of bed rest and a decrease in activity
  • Medication to control the pain
  • Strengthening exercises for your back muscles
  • A back brace

Preventing Vertebral Compression Fractures

Building strong bones can help prevent fractures. However, most women attain maximum bone strength before they’re 25 years old. This makes maintaining bone density and strength at older ages even more important.

Follow these prevention guidelines:

  • Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, jogging or sports such as tennis.
  • Do resistance exercises for arms and legs to improve your strength and balance.
  • Get plenty of calcium, vitamin D and protein in your diet.
  • Treat your osteoporosis.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Remove any obstacles in your home that could cause you to fall.


Call 434.243.3633.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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