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What is Compressed Vertebrae?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Compressed vertebrae is a condition that results from spinal fracture. Ultimately contributing to spinal collapse, compressed vertebrae frequently occur in the presence of osteoporosis or injury. Those with compressed vertebrae may remain asymptomatic, meaning they experience no symptoms, or develop intense back pain that is central to the location of the vertebra experiencing the compression. Treatment for the condition is dependent on the location, cause, and severity of the spinal fracture.

Several diagnostic tests may be administered to confirm the presence of a compressed vertebra. An initial, physical examination is usually conducted to evaluate the physical presentation of the individual’s back and spine. When compressed vertebrae are suspected, imaging tests, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan and X-ray, may be performed to assess the condition of the spine and extent of the compression. For those who have not been diagnosed with osteoporosis, a bone density test may be administered to either detect or determine one’s risk for the condition.

A spinal fracture may occur without the knowledge of the individual and remain undetected indefinitely. Those who develop signs of a spinal fracture may experience diverse symptoms. Back pain induced by a spinal fracture may present as gradual or chronic and manifest to varying degrees, from mild discomfort to stabbing pain. Some individuals may lose inches off their height and adopt a stooped posture. Over time, the continued accumulation of spinal fractures can lead to the development of a condition known as kyphosis, or roundback, which may cause tingling and numbness in the lower extremities, ultimately impairing one’s ability to walk.

Most vertebral fractures occur in the presence of weakened bone as manifests with osteoporosis. Those with this potentially debilitating condition are more susceptible to injury and fracture due to insufficient calcium and nutrients in their bones. Compressed vertebrae may also occur as the result of back and spinal trauma. The accumulation of multiple spinal fractures can, ultimately, contribute to spinal collapse. With timely treatment, individuals who sustain a spinal fracture generally recover within a couple of months of the initial fracture.

In most cases, a compression fracture is treated with the administration of an analgesic medication to alleviate any discomfort and physical therapy to restore functionality and strength. Depending on the severity of the fracture additional measures, including bed rest and bracing, may be utilized to prevent further injury. Severe compression fractures may necessitate surgical correction, which involves the use of specialized cement to reinforce the affected vertebra and alleviate incapacitating pain.

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Discussion Comments

By yumdelish — On Apr 24, 2011

My mother was always forcing me to drink milk when I was a kid, though I didn't understand then the role of calcium in helping to prevent fractured vertebrae.

In those days there were lots of elderly people with quite bad hunches, which I now realize probably came from spinal compression fractures. All I knew was that I should drink the milk to avoid having that problem myself.

The funny thing is that nowadays I don't like the taste anymore, but there are loads of desserts that I can disguise it in. It's a great excuse to indulge!

By Acracadabra — On Apr 23, 2011

@Potterspop - I understand your point of view, though my take is that it would have to be pretty hard core training to make a girl's menstrual cycle stop altogether.

I think sports and vertebrae compression is a bit of a gray area really. When I wanted to learn to waterski my father refused, because he was aware of the increased risk of spine compression. He said the same thing about weight lifting and squats!

In the end you have to weigh up the benefits any kind of exercise brings, against the possible risks.

By Potterspop — On Apr 22, 2011

Recently I saw a TV show which claimed that young female athletes are more likely to experience a fracture of the vertebrae in their back. I think this is caused by excessive training and the upset to their monthly cycle.

If this is true then maybe there should be more control over sports involving developing youngsters. No amount of medals is worth damaged health!

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