Vertebral fractures — overview and treatment options

A vertebral fracture occurs when a vertebra in the spine cracks and has a small, thin break in the bone due to stress or other spine conditions, such as arthritis of the spine.

The symptoms of a vertebral fracture can be immediate if caused by injury or gradual if caused by the natural degeneration of the spine. The common symptoms of a vertebral fracture include pain at the location of the fracture, radiating pain to local extremities, rib pain and difficulty moving or bending without pain. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to determine the cause of your pain. A fractured vertebra due to age may be an indication of the development of future degenerative spine conditions.

Causes of vertebral fractures

Like most spine conditions, the two main causes of vertebral fractures are injury and the natural aging process.

For people under the age of 45, the most common cause of vertebral fractures is injury. This could include a car accident or sports injury, as well as any injury that creates an impact or jarring motion in the spine. In the case of injury, the vertebrae of the spine are impacted with force, causing them to compress drastically on each other. In some cases, the intense compression of the vertebrae can actually chip or fracture the bone, resulting in a vertebral fracture. This condition can also be caused by jumping from a significant height and landing with a hard impact.

For people over the age of 45, the most common cause of vertebral fracture is osteoporosis, or arthritis of the spine. Arthritis of the spine is a natural aging development that causes the bones (vertebrae) of the spine to weaken. As time goes on, the vertebrae become compressed under weight gain and repetitive motion, causing an increased amount of pressure on the vertebrae of the spine. As the arthritis weakens the vertebrae and the body compresses the vertebrae, a vertebral fracture might occur.

Symptoms of vertebral fractures

Each person experiences pain and symptoms differently, depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s medical history. The most commonly experienced symptoms associated with vertebral fractures include:

  • Sudden back pain
  • Radiating pain into the associated arm or leg
  • Increased pain when walking or standing
  • Limited mobility
  • Stiffness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important that you contact your physician immediately. Vertebral fractures can cause more complex spine conditions and should be treated immediately. Your physician can help you decide whether or not you should consider conservative treatment options or surgical treatment for your vertebral fracture.

At Laser Spine Institute, we can help treat vertebral fractures with our minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Our minimally invasive stabilization surgery is a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back fusion. We perform our surgery through a small incision and spare all muscles and soft tissues leading to the spine to reduce your recovery time*. Depending on the severity of your vertebral fracture, the surgeon may insert a small stabilization device to help the vertebra heal and to help prevent future compression in that area.

If you are interested in learning more about our minimally invasive procedures, please contact our care team. Our goal is to help inform you about vertebral fractures and the treatment options available to you based on your condition and medical history so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.