About Spinal Compression Fractures
A spinal compression fracture (also called a “vertebral compression fracture,” or “VCF”) occurs when the bones in your spine, called vertebrae, get so weak that they fracture and collapse. This weakness can be caused by osteoporosis, cancer or benign lesions, and spinal fractures can happen from something as dramatic as a fall, or from simple movements like coughing, sneezing, or turning in bed.
Are Spinal Compression Fractures That Common?
Spinal compression fractures are twice as common as hip fractures and three times more common than breast cancer. Spinal fractures are most common in postmenopausal women over 55.3 In fact, one in two women over age 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related spinal fracture.4
Consequences of Untreated Spinal Compression Fractures
If a spinal compression fracture is left untreated, the vertebra may heal in the “broken” or “caved in” position. This can lead to increased forward curvature, or kyphosis, the medical term for the visible postural change that people refer to as a “dowager’s hump” or “hunchback.”
Just one spinal compression fracture that remains deformed shortens the spine and pushes it forward, adversely affecting spinal alignment. Each additional spinal fracture increases the spinal deformity, and the spinal curvature can become more pronounced. When you change your posture to compensate for kyphotic deformity, it can affect how you walk and can strain your back and joints. A misaligned spine can also compress your internal organs and cause health problems seemingly unrelated to your spine, such as:
- Reduced mobility, loss of balance, and increased risk of falls
- Reduced ability to take care of yourself or perform your usual work or retirement activities
- Reduced days of activity, and more days in bed
- Decreased appetite, and sleep disorders
- Chronic back pain, and fatigue
- Decreased quality of life
- Feelings of isolation and sadness
- Increased risk for future fracture