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Compression Fractures and Spinal Fractures

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Updated August 14, 2009

Definition:

Compression fractures, sometimes called spinal fractures, are breaks in the vertebra or vertebrae. Seniors, especially women, are the most at risk for compression fractures because of osteoporosis. (The risk factors for spinal fractures and osteoporosis are the same.) Other causes of compression fracture include trauma to the spine and spinal tumors.

Compression fractures are a specific type of spinal fracture. When a compression fracture occurs, usually the front of the vertebra crushes, but the back stays in tact. This has the mechanical effect of bending the trunk forward. In time, this causes kyphosis. Fractures in multiple spinal bones can lead to kyphosis as well. A 2009 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that elderly women with spinal fractures who also had kyphosis faced a greater risk of death than women with only one of the two conditions.

Compression fractures can cause a lot of back pain, but usually the pain is not nerve pain. The spinal cord is rarely affected by a compression fracture.

A minimally invasive procedure called vertebroplasty is often given for compression fracture. Vertebroplasty involves injecting bone cement into the fracture to stabilize the bone and relieve back pain. But in 2009, the New England Journal of Medicine published two studies in which vertebroplasty was no better than a sham procedure at relieving pain for patients suffering from painful compression fractures.

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  4. Conditions of the Spine
  5. Osteoporosis and Fracture
  6. Spinal Fractures and Compression Fractures - What Are Compression or Spinal Fractures?

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