The bones of the back are called the vertebrae. A vertebral fracture is a break in one of these bones.
A vertebral fracture can be caused by:
- Osteoporosis —a condition of weakened bones
- Getting a blow to the back
- Falling down
- Landing on your heels when jumping from a height
- Having major trauma as from a motor vehicle accident
Other than trauma, osteoporosis is the main cause of most vertebral fractures.
Factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis include the following:
- Race: Caucasian or Asian
- Sex: female
- Females: 60 and older
- Males: 70 and older
- Long-acting benzodiazepines
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Long-term steroid use
- Use of antipsychotic medications
- Poor mental functioning
- Poor mobility
- Poor strength
- Previous vertebral fracture within the last year
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Test may include:
Vertebroplasty is a relatively new procedure. Liquid cement is injected into the vertebra. It can help relieve the pain associated with vertebral fractures. This is not a common operation. It is not suitable for everyone. Talk with your doctor to see if this option may be right for you.
Your doctor may prescribe:
- Brief period of bed rest and a decrease in activity
- Medication to control the pain
- Strengthening exercises for your back muscles
- Back brace
Treatment for Osteoporosis
To prevent further bone loss, medications may include:
If osteoporosis is the cause of your fracture, your doctor may prescribe the following:
- Vitamin and mineral supplements, especially calcium and vitamin D—Studies indicate that the combination of calcium and vitamin D appear to help bone loss
- Lifestyle changes to help maintain your bones—may include weight-bearing and resistance exercises for both the upper and lower extremities
If you are diagnosed with a vertebral fracture, follow your doctor's instructions .
Building strong bones will help prevent fractures. However, most bone strength is attained by women before they are age 25. That makes maintaining bone density and strength at older ages even more important.
- Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, jogging, or certain sports such as tennis.
- Do resistance exercises for arms and legs. This will help to improve your strength and balance.
- Get plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in your diet. Talk to your doctor if you think you need supplements.
- If you have osteoporosis, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you had an early menopause
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases
National Resource Center, National Institutes of Health
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Women's Health Matters
American Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ .
Osteoporosis. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin. No. 50. 2004 June.
Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases website. Available at: http://www.osteo.org .
Prevention of osteoporosis and fractures. Am Fam Physician . 1999 July.
Last reviewed February 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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