scroll to top
Loading icon
Health Information Center
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.

Vertebral Compression Fracture

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Vertebral Compression Fracture

(Fracture, Vertebral Compression)


A vertebral compression fracture is a break in one of the bones of the spine. It is most common in the bones that are at chest level.

Vertebral Fracture

factsheet image fracture lumbarNULL\\filer01a\Intellect\images\si1938.jpgNULL17NULL2004-03-04287390Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Osteoporosis is the most common cause. Weakened bones are more likely to break from:

  • Everyday actions, such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting light objects
  • Falling from a chair
  • Tripping

Other causes may be:

  • Trauma from:
    • A steep fall
    • A motor vehicle accident
    • A sports accident
    • Violence
  • Bone cancer

Risk Factors

A fracture caused by osteoporosis is more common in women who have been through menopause. A fracture caused by trauma is more common in young men.

Other things that may raise the risk are:


Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Mild to severe pain in the middle or lower back
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness
  • Problems walking


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the spine.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:


Underlying causes will need to be treated. The goal of treatment is to manage pain and help with healing. Options depend on the severity of the fracture. Choices are:

  • Over the counter or prescription pain relievers
  • A back brace
  • Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion

Some people may need surgery. Choices are:

  • Vertebroplasty —Liquid cement is injected into the bone to ease pain and restore movement.
  • Kyphoplasty —A balloon-like device is used to create a small space in the bone near the fracture. Then cement is injected into the space.
  • Spinal fusion —Two or more bones are joined together in the spine to keep them from moving.


Treating or preventing osteoporosis can lower the risk of this problem.





  • Thoracolumbar vertebral compression fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Vertebral compression fractures. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at:
  • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at:
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.