Osteoporosis / Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures occur when the normal vertebral body is “squashed”, or compressed in height.  Spinal compression fractures may also be called Spondylolysis.  When the load on a vertebra exceeds its stability or inherent strength, the bone can collapse. Pain, limited mobility, height loss and spinal deformity are often the result. In severe cases, part of the vertebral body may protrude into the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Organ function, including that of the bowel or bladder, also may be compromised.

They may occur anywhere in the spine, but are most often found in the lower vertebrae of the upper back. The vertebral bone tends to collapse toward the front of the spine, creating wedge-shaped vertebrae that cause the spine to curve forward (kyphosis), eventually leading to the “dowager’s hump” frequently associated with the advanced stage of the disease.


  • Osteoporosis: majority of vertebral compression fractures are the result of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to progressively become more thin and fragile. When bones are brittle, even everyday activities and minor traumas, such as lifting a laundry basket, missing a step, or even coughing or sneezing, can cause these tiny fractures.
  • Spondylosis: is a degeneration defect that can lead to stress fractures in the posterior element of the spine. People may experience back pain or leg pain, or no symptoms at all.
  • Trauma: Even strong, healthy bones can sustain compression fractures from a hard fall or blow to the back or torso.
  • Tumor: Tumors growing in or near the spine are another cause of compression fractures.


One of our neurosurgeons will assess your specific needs and plan treatment accordingly.


  • Medications to relieve bone, muscle and nerve pain.
  • A reduction in activity or bed rest
  • A spinal brace to limit motion
  • Medication to stabilize or improve bone density
  • Physical therapy
  • Epidural spinal injection
  • External soft bracing


Content adapted from Medtronic Catalyst patient education http://catalyst.medtronic.com/catalyst/business-of-medicine/patient-education/

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