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    Diagnosing a Spinal Compression Fracture

    The back pain may seem like arthritis or the aches and pains of aging. People often think it's a disc problem or muscle strain. Many people don't even get examined because either they -- or their family members -- don't realize what the problem is. But often back pain among older adults is caused by a spinal compression fracture.

    Only your doctor can diagnose a spinal compression fracture. To determine what's wrong, your doctor may ask questions such as:

    • How long have you had the back pain?
    • What caused it?
    • What were you doing when it started?
    • Is the pain getting worse or better?

    Your doctor may also prescribe tests such as:

    • A spinal X-ray to determine whether a vertebra has collapsed
    • A CT scan to provide detail of the fractured bone and the nerves around it
    • An MRI scan to show greater detail of nerves and nearby discs

    Also, a bone biopsy may be done because a small percentage of patients have compression fractures caused by cancer.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on February 27, 2016

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