What are Spinal Compression Fractures?

Anatomy of Your Spine

The spine is comprised of a column of 33 individual bones called vertebra that interlock with each other to form the spinal column. Your spine provides the main support for your body, allowing you to stand upright, bend and move freely.

Your 33 vertebrae are numbered and divided into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and coccyx. Only the top 24 vertebrae are movable; the vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx are fused. Your vertebrae are separated and cushioned by intervertebral discs to keep the bones from rubbing together, and supported by extensor muscles along the spine and flexor muscles in your abdomen.

Spinal Problems & Back Pain

Each of your 33 vertebrae has its own unique job to perform to protect your spinal column from injury and keep you healthy, upright and mobile. With age, our discs become brittle and lose their ability to reabsorb fluid to properly cushion our vertebrae.

Diseases like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can cause bone spurs and bulging or herniated discs that compress nerve roots. Weakened vertebrae can also lead to cracks, fractures and even vertebral collapse, most commonly known as vertebral compression fractures (VCF). Chronic back pain results when these problems occur in your spinal column and vertebrae.

Human spine in x-ray, on gray background. The lumbar spine is highlighted by red colour.

What is a Spinal or Vertebral Compression Fracture (VCF)?

A spinal or vertebral compression fracture is usually caused by a condition such as osteoporosis (a disease which weakens the bones), a very hard fall, metastatic spread of cancer, excessive pressure, or some kind of physical injury. When a bone in the spine collapses, it is called a vertebral compression fracture (VCF).

Vertebral compression fractures range from mild to severe. More severe fractures can cause significant pain leading to life-threatening declines in health due to severe pain and inactivity. VCFs are most commonly diagnosed by a physical exam, x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Traditional treatments include bed rest, pain control and physical therapy.

Causes of Spinal Problems & Back Pain

About a third of compression fractures go undiagnosed as many patients expect back pain as a normal part of aging. Often times, patients have suffered a bone fracture or even multiple bone fractures in their spine and don’t even realize it.

Chronic back pain doesn’t have to be part of life, at any age. There are new treatments available now to help mitigate spine damage that occurs naturally as we get older, and repair fractured vertebrae to restore mobility and height.

The following are the common causes for spinal compression fractures, and the cause of chronic back pain.

Most Common Causes of VCFs


As we age, our bones aren’t able to regenerate new bone as fast as older bones are broken down. This causes our bones to become weak and brittle and susceptible to fractures most commonly occurring in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women who are past menopause are at the highest risk.

Multiple Myeloma

This cancer forms in white blood cells called plasma cells that normally help you fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple Myeloma accumulates in the bone marrow pushing out healthy blood cells. When this happens, your bones are more vulnerable to fractures.

Metastatic Cancer

Cancer cells can break away from where they first formed, travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors, called metastatic tumors, in other parts of the body. Metastatic cancer can spread to the bone and replace the bone. VCFs can occur when vertebrae are weakened by metastatic cancer.

How Do VCF’s Happen?

When bones thin, they lose their ability to absorb and become brittle. In this state, your vertebrae aren’t able to support your body’s movement in everyday activities. Any little misstep can cause a fracture – a bend or slip, even cough or sneeze.

Portrait of aged women doing yoga exercise

Who’s At Risk?

Spinal compression fractures are usually caused by bone-thinning conditions like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and cancer that can affect both men and women of all races age 50 and older. However, women who have already been through menopause are at the highest risk for VCFs.

The experts at the Spine Fracture Center now offer two minimally-invasive treatments for Spinal Compression Fractures: Vertebroplasty and Kyphon® Balloon Kyphoplasty.


You do not have to feel alone during this time. The team at the Spine Fracture Center truly cares about you and your unique situation and is here to help. Please contact the the Spine Fracture Center for a physician consultation to discuss the risks and whether an interventional radiology procedure is right for you.

Call today at (904) 402-8346 to get started on your Return to Life!