A compression fracture occurs when an injury to a spinal bone
(vertebra) causes it to fracture and collapse (compress). A weakened vertebra
may collapse because of a minor injury or without an obvious injury, often as
the result of osteoporosis.
When several vertebrae have been fractured, a person may lose
height. Compression fractures may lead to a hump in the upper back (dowager's
hump) and may cause back pain.
Treatment of compression fractures may include treating the
osteoporosis with medicines and calcium and treating the pain with
analgesics or calcitonin. A brace or corset is sometimes recommended, to keep the back stable as the bones heal. Surgery may be needed if there is any loss of
function because of bone pressing on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics