Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Select An Article

Osteoporosis and Spine Fractures

Font Size

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Fracture?

Although many people report some type of back pain, only one third of spine fractures actually produce painful symptoms. That makes early diagnosis of spine fractures extremely difficult. Fractures in the lower spine are associated with greater pain and loss of function than are fractures of the upper spine.

Symptoms of a spinal fracture may include:

  • Sudden, severe back pain
  • Worsening of pain when standing or walking
  • Difficulty and pain when bending or twisting
  • Loss of height
  • Deformity of the spine -- the curved, "hunchback" shape also known as dowager’s hump

It is possible to fracture more than one bone in the spine.

What’s the Treatment for Spine Fractures?

An X-ray or a computerized tomography (CT) scan is typically used to determine whether or not you have a spinal fracture. Your doctor will analyze the image of the spine and determine the severity of the fracture.

Pain treatments will likely be prescribed and your doctor will encourage you to move around as soon as possible. Physical therapy might be ordered. Other treatments may include stabilization of the spine with a brace or procedures such as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. Some fractures may need surgery, depending on the severity.

Your doctor may also analyze your bone mineral density (BMD). To do that, he will ask for a DXA -- sometimes called DEXA -- scan. DXA stands for dual X-ray absorptiometry, which is the preferred technique for measuring BMD.

DXA is relatively easy to perform and the amount of radiation exposure is low. A DXA scanner is a machine that produces two X-ray beams. Each beam has a different energy level. One beam is high energy. The other is low energy. The amount of X-rays that pass through your bone is measured for each beam. This amount varies, depending on the thickness or density of the bone. Based on the difference between the two beams, the bone mineral density can be determined.

For in depth information, see WebMD’s Osteoporosis Treatment.

How Can I Prevent Spine Fractures?

A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, along with a regular weight-bearing and strengthening exercise program, is essential for preventing osteoporosis and spine fractures. Talk to your doctor about a bone mineral density test to see how strong your bones are. Then take prevention steps to keep them strong. It is never too early -- or too late -- to prevent bone loss. Once fractures occur, however, medication is usually recommended

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on April 16, 2015
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
senior woman
Woman holding plate of brocolli
wrist xray
Superfood for Bones
mature woman
sunlight in hands
man and woman in front of xray
woman with dumbbells