Compression fractures of the back

Alternative Names

Vertebral compression fractures

Definition of Compression fractures of the back

Compression fractures of the back are broken vertebrae, which are the bones of the spine.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

In a compression fracture of the vertebra, the vertebral bone collapses. More than one vertebra may be affected. This condition may be caused by:


Compression fractures may cause no symptoms and only be discovered when x-rays of the spine are done for other reasons. Over time, the following symptoms may occur:


Most compression fractures are found in elderly patients with osteoporosis. These fractures generally do not cause injury to the spinal cord. In these patients, the osteoporosis is treated with prescription medications and calcium supplements.

Expectations (prognosis)

Most compression fractures from trauma will heal in 8 – 10 weeks with rest, bracing, and pain medications. Recovery time will be many weeks longer if surgery is necessary.


David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. – 11/30/2009

Compression fracture

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.