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

Symptoms of a Spinal Compression Fracture

Font Size

It is important to identify the symptoms of spinal compression fractures and notify your doctor right away. Sudden, severe back pain, especially in older women, may signal a spinal compression fracture or another serious condition.

Anyone with significant back pain -- especially a woman who is near or over age 50 -- should see a doctor. Most compression fractures in women over 50 are due to osteoporosis and treatment can help reduce the chance of further compression fractures.

Recommended Related to Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and Diets

Weight loss and bone loss can sometimes go hand in hand. Doctors know that women with anorexia, who severely restrict calories for a long time, are at increased risk for osteoporosis. The eating disorder interferes with hormones needed to maintain bone, not to mention the foods people need to build bone. But what if you don’t have anorexia? What’s the relationship between osteoporosis and normal dieting? How do you know if you’re at risk for bone loss? What kind of dieting is safe for your...

Read the Osteoporosis and Diets article > >

One or more symptoms can indicate a spinal fracture:

  • Sudden, severe back pain (though many times the symptoms can come on gradually and worsen over time)
  • Worsening of pain when standing or walking
  • Some pain relief when lying down
  • Difficulty and pain when bending or twisting
  • Loss of height
  • Deformity of the spine - the curved, "hunchback" shape

The pain typically occurs with a slight back strain during an everyday activity, like:

  • Lifting a bag of groceries
  • Bending to the floor to pick something up
  • Slipping on a rug or making a misstep
  • Lifting a suitcase out of the trunk of a car
  • Lifting the corner of a mattress when changing bed linens

Different Signs of Spinal Compression Fracture Pain

The pain experience of a spinal compression fracture can vary. For many people, the pain will subside while the bone is healing. That can take up to two or three months. Other people will continue feeling pain, even if the fracture has healed.

Not everyone feels a clear-cut spinal pain when a fracture occurs.

In some cases, there is virtually no pain involved with spinal compression fractures. The fractures may occur so gradually that the pain is relatively mild or unnoticeable. For some people, the pain may evolve into a chronic back ache in the injured area. For others, the gradual curving of the spine is the first indication that multiple fractures have occurred.

Signs of Multiple Spinal Compression Fractures

When multiple spinal compression fractures have occurred, there is considerable change in the spine. This can affect the internal organs and body functions:

  • Height loss: With each fracture of a spinal bone, the spine loses some of its height. Eventually, after several collapsed vertebrae, the person's shorter stature will be noticeable.
  • Kyphosis (curved back): These fractures often create wedge-shaped vertebral bones, which makes the spine bend forward. Eventually, neck and back pain may develop as your body tries to adapt.
  • Stomach complaints: A shorter spine can compress the stomach, causing a bulging stomach and digestive problems like constipation, less appetite, and weight loss.
  • Hip pain: The shorter spine brings the rib cage closer to the hip bones. If rib and hip bones are rubbing against each other, there will be discomfort and pain.
  • Breathing problems: If the spine becomes severely compressed, lungs may not function properly and breathing can be seriously affected.

The symptoms of spinal compression fractures are obviously different for every person.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 20, 2012
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