Vertebral Compression Fracture
A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) occurs when one of the vertebrae bones in the spine is damaged or deteriorates to the point that it collapses.
Vertebral compression fractures may occur in just one vertebra or several at a time, depending on the cause. They usually result in deformity, reduced height, and severe pain.
What causes a vertebral compression fracture?
The cause of a VCF will generally depend on how healthy the spine is. The weaker the bones, the easier they can fracture.
As we age, our bones gradually deteriorate from general wear and tear and become more susceptible to fracturing. By age 80, 40% of women will suffer a VCF. While men are less likely than women to experience a VCF, they are still at high risk in old age.
A VCF is also more likely to occur in patients suffering from osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. In advanced cases, something as simple as coughing or sneezing too hard can cause a compression fracture.
Occasionally, a VCF may be a sign of a tumor in the vertebrae. As a tumor grows in the spine, it can damage the bone, weakening it until it fractures and collapses.
For people with strong, healthy spines, the most common cause of a VCF is severe trauma, such as a significant fall or a car accident.
What are symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture?
The primary symptoms of a vertebral compression fracture include
- Sudden back pain
- More pain while standing or walking
- Less pain when lying down on the back
- Limited ability to move spine
- Height loss
- Physical deformity originating in the spine
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