Skip to content

Pain Management Health Center

Font Size

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 23, 2014

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow