Trauma to the spine via impact is one of the most common causes of the vertebral compression fracture, but VCF has several notable causes.  Chief among them are osteoporosis and cancer, as these conditions cause the bones to become brittle and vulnerable.

Most cases of VCF are found in the lower back, but fractures of this nature can be found at any point of the spine.


Pain in the lower back is one sign of VCF, but pain can be experienced in the neck and mid-back, also.  This may be accompanied by pain in the hips, abdomen, and thighs.  Some people experience tingling, numbness, or weakness, which can signal nerve compression at the fracture site.

If interruptions in the normal function of the bowel and bladder are experienced, it’s likely that the fracture has caused pressure on the spinal cord, itself and emergency treatment should be sought.

Diagnosis and treatment.

Pain which doesn’t abate when resting gets worse while sleeping, or is being experienced by a child under 12, an elderly person, or a person with cancer, should be immediately addressed by the visit to a medical practitioner.

Diagnostic tools used to detect VCF may vary.  For example, people older than age 65, or cancer patients require X-Rays to detect if a fracture has occurred.  For other patients, X-Rays are usually not necessary.

CT scans to detect the location of the VCF and its extent are the general diagnostic tool in use, but in extreme cases, an MRI may be used.  Extreme cases include those in which bladder and bowel function are compromised, or are experiencing weakness or a loss of sensation in the extremities.

The good news is that many cases of VCF can be treated at home, or with conservative therapies.  The most helpful treatment of all is, of course, rest to allow healing.  Pain relief in the form of medication may be either prescribed or obtained over the counter.

The application of ice is a helpful self-care tool for patients with VCF.  When permitted, a course of strengthening exercises may be pursued to speed and support healing.  Always seek the counsel of a medical professional before exercising when recovering from a vertebral compression fracture.

Your caregiver may also counsel bracing for the affected area to immobilize the vertebrae implicated.

When the VCF presents a clear danger to your spinal cord, surgery may be indicated.  A new, minimally-invasive procedure called percutaneous vertebroplasty acts to cement the vertebra to restore the bone to its original shape and re-establish spinal stability. Kyphoplasty is an intervention in which a small balloon is inserted and inflated to return the damaged vertebra to its original height, prior to percutaneous vertebroplasty being performed.

Spine Care NJ.

If you’re seeking support for VCF, the team at Spine Consult NJ offers specialized expertise for all conditions of the spine. Contact us to schedule a consultation.