About Spinal Compression Fractures

Compression fractures of the spine are common in people with bone loss or osteoporosis. At least 25 percent of women have this type of spine fracture after menopause. About 50 percent of women over 80 have a spinal compression fracture. Older men are also at risk.

Compression fractures occur in the softer bone that makes up the front of the spine. Because these bones are not as hard as other bones in the body, they are more likely to break under pressure.

Causes of spinal compression fractures

Osteoporosis (brittle bones and bone loss) after menopause is a common cause of spinal compression fractures. Osteoporosis weakens bones so they break more easily.

Other causes of weak bones that break easily include:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Not enough exercise
  • Certain medications such as prednisone, dilantin or heparin
  • Medical conditions such as cancer or kidney failure

Bones can become so fragile from some of these causes that just standing in place can cause them to collapse.

Symptoms of compression fractures

Compression fractures can cause pain, from mild discomfort to severe pain requiring a hospital stay. The pain is usually in the upper or middle back. It gets worse with standing or lifting. Often, the pain does not go away on its own.