Unfortunately, as we get older back pain can become part of life, however it is important that you understand the other possible risks.

A vertebral compression fracture occurs when a vertebra (the bones that make up the spine) collapses. This can be very painful and cause deformity or loss of height. These fractures can occur at any point in the spine, although they are most common in the thoracic spine (middle section).


If you suffer from a condition called osteoporosis (mild to severe), then you may be at a higher risk of developing a vertebral compression fracture, as osteoporosis puts you at a higher risk of breaking bones. Although it is far more common in older women, it is also something that older men should be wary of as well.

A vertebral compression fracture can also be caused by a severe trauma, such as a car crash or fall.


Everyone will experience different symptoms, varying in severity. Here are some of the most common symptoms.

  • Sudden back pain
  • Pain that gets worse when you stand and/or walk
  • Pain that gets better when you sit and/or lay
  • Limited movement in the spine
  • Obvious height loss or deformity

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose a vertebral compression fracture your doctor will do a physical examination and go over your medical history. Your doctor will usually be able to make a diagnosis just from however they may also refer you to have some scans. This can include:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI scan
  • X-ray

All of these will help to show what the fracture looks like.

The first treatment options you are offered will be conservative, meaning that they are not surgery. This will often include resting and medication; to bring down the swelling and pain. The pain can last for as long as 6 months, however you will often see improvements over the first couple of weeks.

If the conservative treatment options are unsuccessful it may mean you need to have surgery. The two most common treatment options include a vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.