Vertebral Compression Fractures: How to Manage Pain, Avoid Disability

Geriatrics. 1994 Feb;49(2):22-6.


About 25% of U.S. women over age 50 will suffer one or more vertebral compression fractures related to osteoporosis. Vertebral fractures may be biconcave, anterior wedge, or crush deformities. A fracture is most often precipitated by putting a load on outstretched arms (eg, while raising a window). Back pain is usually incapacitating for a few weeks, then diminishes in severity but remains intense for 2 to 3 months. Acute complications include transient ileus, urinary retention, or (rarely) cord compression. Long-term effects include kyphosis, deconditioning, insomnia, and depression. Initial treatment includes bed rest, pain management with local and systemic analgesia, bracing to improve comfort, and patient reassurance. Long-term management includes spinal stretching exercises, walking, and treatment of underlying osteoporosis with calcitonin or estrogen in selected patients.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fracture Healing
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / complications
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / complications
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management*
  • Spinal Fractures / complications
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis
  • Spinal Fractures / therapy*