Vertebral Compression Fractures

Every year, more than half a mil­lion peo­ple get a ver­te­bral com­pres­sion frac­ture due to osteo­porot­ic, thin­ning bones.

Among younger peo­ple, motor vehi­cle acci­dents and oth­er trau­ma can also cause frac­tures of the ver­te­brae.  Tumors metas­ta­siz­ing to the spine and weak­en­ing the bones are a third cause.

Each of these cat­e­gories of ver­te­bral com­pres­sion frac­ture presents its own prob­lems.

If you’ve been thrown off a motor­cy­cle and smashed your ver­te­bra, you’ve got seri­ous pain.  And there’s a good chance that the nerves of the spinal cord have got­ten impinged.  That can be a sur­gi­cal emer­gency.

Tumors that metas­ta­size to the spine can also cause intense pain and neu­ro­log­i­cal com­pro­mise.

On the oth­er hand, many old­er peo­ple with osteo­porot­ic frac­tures don’t even know they’ve got­ten them.  You might have pain, but the pain could also be min­i­mal.  And spinal cord impinge­ment is far less like­ly. You can frac­ture an osteo­porot­ic ver­te­bra in a fall or oth­er trau­ma, from some­thing as sim­ple as sneez­ing, or with­out any spe­cif­ic cause at all.

Ver­te­bral com­pres­sion frac­tures due to thin­ning bones are a seri­ous prob­lem, too, because they throw off your pos­tur­al align­ment.  In most cas­es, the front half of the ver­te­bra gets crushed, caus­ing a for­ward-bent defor­mi­ty known as kypho­sis.  That puts the rest of your spine, your hip joints and knees, and even your inter­nal organs under greater stress, and inter­feres with nor­mal activ­i­ties includ­ing stand­ing and walk­ing.

compression fracture lumbar spine

com­pres­sion frac­ture lum­bar spine

The main­stay of treat­ment for osteo­porot­ic ver­te­bral com­pres­sion frac­tures has been brac­ing to sta­bi­lize the spine and help the ver­te­bra to heal, hop­ing that the pos­tur­al defor­mi­ty won’t be too sig­nif­i­cant.

But in the last ten to twen­ty years, the sur­gi­cal tech­niques of ver­te­bro­plas­ty and kypho­plas­ty have emerged.  In each of these pro­ce­dures, the sur­geon actu­al­ly injects bone cement into the frac­tured ver­te­bra to sta­bi­lize it.  In the­o­ry, this reduces pain, speeds heal­ing, and pre­vents pos­tur­al dis­tor­tion. I’m not a sur­geon and don’t have an opin­ion about the spe­cif­ic indi­ca­tions for either of these pro­ce­dures.  But they have had a fair­ly high suc­cess rate when used appro­pri­ate­ly.

In my prac­tice, I occa­sion­al­ly treat cas­es of ver­te­bral com­pres­sion frac­ture dur­ing the lat­er phas­es of heal­ing after the frac­ture has sta­bi­lized.  My treat­ment method Neu­ro­Tac­tile ™ Ther­a­py can alle­vi­ate pain.  And the move­ment skills train­ing I offer can improve spinal mobil­i­ty and pos­ture while increas­ing the strength of core trunk mus­cles.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Beyond cal­ci­um and vit­a­min D

Secret to avoid­ing falls and frac­tures — bal­ance exer­cis­es for seniors


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website,, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.

This entry was posted in Bone Health and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.