Sometimes the bones or vertebrae of the spine can crack and collapse under their weight. This is known as a compression fracture, vertebral compression fracture, or VCF. There are almost 1 million compression fractures every year, usually because the bones become weakened and crack under the weight of the vertebrae above them. These fractures can cause spinal weakness affect posture and the ability to stand up straight. They are often the cause for individuals to hunch over, also called kyphosis.
Compression fractures are small breaks or cracks in the vertebrae. The breaks occur in the vertebral body, the thick rounded part on the front of each vertebra. These fractures cause the spine to weaken and collapse. With time, these fractures affect posture as the spine curves forward. The fractures are often found in the middle/thoracic spine in the lower area. They often result from osteoporosis but can also happen after a trauma like an automobile accident, work, sports injury, or a tumor on the spine.
Compression fracture symptoms range from mild to severe or no symptoms. Many individuals can stand or walk without pain. They are often discovered when X-rays are taken for another condition. Symptoms include:
A doctor will perform an examination and ask about symptoms. The exam will include:
A doctor will order imaging studies to examine the backbones, muscles, and soft tissues. Imaging studies include:
Compression fracture treatment focuses on relieving pain, stabilizing the vertebrae, and ongoing fracture prevention. Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture and the individual’s overall health. Treatment can include:
Individuals over 65 or that have osteoporosis or a history of cancer are recommended to see their doctor. Individuals who present with sudden back pain that doesn’t get better after a day or two are advised to see a doctor and evaluate for back pain so the doctor can determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.
Skeletal Muscle Mass decreases as the body ages, primarily due to decreased physical activity. Vitamin D has been reported to influence muscle quality. This could be helpful for adults as they age. Muscle loss diminishes functional performance on activities that require strength and coordination. When this loss of muscle mass becomes significant, it becomes a condition known as sarcopenia. Treatments include:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures. (orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/osteoporosis-and-spinal-fractures/) Accessed 10/25/2021.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Vertebral Compression Fractures. (www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Vertebral-Compression-Fractures) Accessed 10/25/2021.
Bischoff-Ferrari, H A et al. “Vitamin D receptor expression in human muscle tissue decreases with age.” Journal of bone and mineral research: the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research vol. 19,2 (2004): 265-9. doi:10.1359/jbmr.2004.19.2.265
Donnally III CJ, DiPompeo CM, Varacallo M. Vertebral Compression Fractures. [Updated 2021 Nov 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448171/
Hassan-Smith, Zaki K et al. “25-hydroxyvitamin D3, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 exert distinct effects on human skeletal muscle function and gene expression.” PloS one vol. 12,2 e0170665. 15 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170665
McCarthy, Jason, and Amy Davis. “Diagnosis and Management of Vertebral Compression Fractures.” American family physician vol. 94,1 (2016): 44-50.
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