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Spinal Compression Fractures

Pain Resulting From Collapsed Vertebrae

Spinal Compression Fractures (SCF) become more prevalent with age, particularly for women.

Spinal Compression Fractures Facts & Information

Pain from untreated SCF can lead to unremitting back and hip pain. With precision diagnostics and very effective non-surgical treatments, National Spine & Pain Centers can help resolve the painful health issues of SCF and prevent the effects of future fractures.

How & Why Does SCF Develop?

The spine is formed by a bony, weight-bearing column of vertebrae. When young and healthy, these bones can withstand significant amounts of pressure, but aging bones lose density, gradually becoming more brittle and susceptible to fracture.

Spinal compression fractures occur when the bone structure becomes so weak the vertebra virtually collapses on itself, creating a wedge-like shape. When fractures occur in multiple vertebrae, the entire spinal column may shorten and curve, forming a stooped posture. As the spine becomes more compressed, lung capacity decreases, the abdomen may distend, and the rib cage puts pressure on the hips.

An estimated 25 to 30 percent of women over age 50 experience SCF, yet many mistakenly attribute the symptoms to arthritis. As a result, the condition often goes untreated, eventually impacting quality of life.

The most common cause of SCF is osteoporosis, a condition that results from the significant loss of bone mass due to aging. Although osteoporosis develops quietly, with few or no symptoms, it is easily detected through screenings and successfully treated with diet, exercise, and medications. Untreated, osteoporosis becomes a primary factor in SCF, weakening bones until simple actions such as lifting a bag of groceries or missing a step may cause a compression fracture. With severe osteoporosis, even coughing or sneezing may result in fractures.

Consequently, SCF shares many of the same risk factors as osteoporosis. Both are more common in women, Caucasians and Asians, and people with a family history of the condition. Other contributing factors may include hormone deficiency, smoking tobacco, excessive alcohol use, a lack of weight-bearing exercise, a diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D, and blunt trauma.


  • Sudden onset severe back pain
  • Dull, achy back pain or pain that travels around the rib cage
  • Pain down an arm or leg
  • Pain when standing, walking, bending, or twisting
  • Loss of height
  • Forward curvature of the spine
  • Declining ability to function


Proper diagnosis starts with an experienced pain management doctor. SCF can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often mimic other common conditions such as arthritis, facet syndrome, or degenerative disc disease. Our board-certified pain specialists accurately detect SCF with a multi-faceted approach and precision diagnostics such as the following:

  • Blood tests, urine screenings, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans
  • Bone Mineral Density (BMD) testing to help evaluate for the presence of osteoporosis
  • Imaging studies such as x-rays, MRI, and CT scans
  • Such imaging techniques help assess the acuity and extent of compression fractures
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
Possible Treatments

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