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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 23, 2014

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