Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine and are called vertebral compression fractures. These fractures commonly occur in the lower thoracic and upper lumbar regions. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, they occur in nearly 700,000 patients each year. They are almost twice as common as other fractures typically linked to osteoporosis, such as broken hips and wrists.
A vertebral compression fracture causes back pain, typically near where the break occurs. They most commonly occur near the waistline. The back pain often gets worse with standing or sitting for a period of time. As osteoporosis progresses, another symptom can be a forward curving of the spine (“dowagers hump”) that results in a hunched appearance and the loss of height. Symptoms may also include a loss of range of motion and reduction of sensation in the extremities.
Causes and Risk Factors
Most compression fractures develop because of osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone density that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. If you have osteoporosis, routine daily activities such as bending down or coughing can gradually damage your vertebrae. Compression fractures can also caused by traumatic injury or by cancer of the spine.
Treatment options may include rest, pain medication, and physical therapy. If your doctor has also diagnosed osteoporosis, you are at an increased risk for additional vertebral compression fractures and other fractures, such as to the hip and wrist. Your doctor will address treatments for bone density loss during this time. If you have severe back pain and these options are not successful, procedures such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty may be used to stabilize the fracture and prevent further collapse of the bone.