Spinal compression fractures, also called vertebral compression fractures, are cracks or breaks in the bones of the spine that are caused by too much pressure placed on them. Healthy bones can normally withstand quite a bit of pressure. If bones are weakened by tumor or osteoporosis, however, they can break with even mild trauma.
Compression fractures of the spine usually occur in the lumbar, or lower, region of the spine, but can sometimes occur in the thoracic spine at the level of the chest. Compression fractures can be extremely painful and disabling, and can cause instability that increases the risk damage to the nerves or spinal cord. They may even have an adverse effect on cardiopulmonary function.
Causes of spinal compression fractures include:
Reviewed by: Srikanth Boddu, MD, MSc
Last reviewed/updated: September 2023
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI