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Spinal Compression Fractures

There are about 15,000 major thoracolumbar fractures per year resulting in 5,000  which result in significant neurological complications. Most occur between the T11  and L1 vertebral body levels. A burst fracture is most common. Falls are the most common cause of spinal compression fractures in the elderly population, but they  can also be caused by seat belt injuries following a motor vehicle accident, falls and  other high-energy trauma.


As with any broken bone, a fracture of the vertebral body can result in excruciating pain. There are some individuals who feel little pain and find out about a fracture long after it has healed.



• Severe back pain

• Severe pain with deep breaths

• Severe pain with moving

• Severe weakness

• Numbness and tingling

• Bowel or bladder problems


Other diseases that can mimic a spinal compression fracture include:

• Infections

• Neoplasm



Treatment will depend on the source of pain which may range from physical therapy and bracing to targeted injections or other interventions. For less severe pain a course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) and physical therapy may be helpful. For more severe pain, a brace and oral pain medications may be helpful.



Wood K, Mehbod A, Garvey T, Jhanjee R, Sechriest V , Butterman G. Operative compared with nonoperative treatment of a thoracolumbar burst fracture without neurological deficit.

A prospective, randomized study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2003  May;85-A(5):773-81.

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