Acute Pain: Vertebral compression fractures

Vertebral compression fractures

Overview

Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are the most common fracture in patients with osteoporosis, affecting about 750,000 people annually. VCFs affect an estimated 25 percent of all postmenopausal women in the U.S. The prevalence of this condition steadily increases as people age, with an estimated 40 percent of women age 80 and older affected. Although far more common in women, VCFs are also a major health concern for older men.

Symptoms

  • Pain It tends to be in the lower back but may occur in the middle or upper back or neck. Some people may also have hip, abdominal, or thigh pain
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness: Such symptoms could mean compression of the nerves at the fracture site.
  • Losing control of urine or stool or urinary retention. If these symptoms are present, the fracture may be pushing on the spinal cord itself.

Causes

Causes and Risk Factors. Rarely, compression fractures occur in healthy vertebrae as a result of trauma. More often, the vertebra with a compression fracture is already weakened. The most common cause of weakening is osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak and brittle bones.

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