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What is a Compression Fracture and How Are They Treated?

What is a Compression Fracture of the Spine?

Our spines are a column of many individual bones (vertebra), separated by cushion-like discs (inter-vertebral discs). The shape of each vertebra is complex and is made up of a central almost-circular “body” and a more irregular shaped “arch”. The vertebral body is the load-bearing part, separated from each adjacent vertebra by a disc.

A spinal compression fracture, also called a vertebral compression fracture (VCF), is the term used when the main “body” of a vertebra is broken. When this occurs, it’s as if the vertebra collapses, leading to significant pain. Since this is the load-bearing part of the spine, one or more VCF’s can also lead to a loss of height.


There are many possible causes of a compression fracture but conditions put some at more risk than others. For example, people with severe osteoporosis, are more susceptible to a compression fracture from normal everyday activities like sneezing or lifting a small object. Individuals with less severe osteoporosis can still get a compression fracture, although it may take more force for the fracture to occur. Compression fractures in individuals with no underlying spine conditions is usually the result of an accident or fall.

How is a Compression Fracture Treated?

Non-Surgical Treatment Methods

Over the counter (ie: NSAIDs) or prescription strength (ie: muscle relaxants) pain medication may be used to help treat the pain resulting from a compression fracture.

A back brace can also be used to help stabilize the spine while the fracture is healing.

If your doctor feels you’re at risk of more fractures, (s)he may recommend medications be used to help reduce your risk.

Surgical Treatment Methods

If non-surgical treatment methods have not been effective in treating the pain, surgical methods may be considered. However, a doctor will weigh factors such as medical history, response to conservative treatments, and other underlying conditions before recommending surgery.

The most common surgical methods used for treating VCFs are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty are two different surgical techniques in which the surgeon injects artificial bone cement into the broken vertebral body to give it strength and stability.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery