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Compression fractures are tiny cracks in the bone of the spine that can eventually cause the vertebrae to collapse and deform. The shape, height, and structure of the spine can be permanently altered as a result. The collapse can also cause pieces of bone to press on the spinal cord and nerves, decreasing the amount of blood and oxygen that gets to the spinal cord, which can result in pain and additional damage to the spine.
Symptoms of a compression fracture may include back pain and postural changes. If there is nerve damage, symptoms may also include numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness. If not treated properly, permanent spinal deformities can result.
Compression fractures are rarely a result of injury or trauma, but more often vertebrae and bones that are already weakened. Compression fractures are commonly a result of osteoporosis, which is a type of bone loss that can cause bones to break easily.
Non-surgical treatments are recommended initially for compression fractures, which may include pain medications or a brace that helps support the back while the fracture is healing. Surgery is considered if the spine is unstable, in which a kyphoplasty is performed – or, in more severe cases, a spinal fusion – to restabilize the vertebrae.