What Causes Spinal Compression Fractures?

November 12, 2012

What Causes Spinal Compression Fractures?

Spinal compression fractures, sometimes just called spinal compression, mostly happen to old age pensioners but can theoretically happen to people of any age suffering from bone problems. Any chronic ache or pain in the back should be checked out by a doctor or a neurologist. These aches could be tiny fractures in the vertebrae. These can often be successfully treated without surgery.

But what causes the fractures? Basically, itÂ’s a combination of a deteriorating spine and gravity. It is normal for people over the age of 50 to begin developing osteoporosis or “brittle bones.” Children suffering from malnutrition may lack enough calcium and Vitamin D in their diets to make strong bones and can be prone to spinal compression. People with bone cancer are also prone to suffering from this condition.

The Aging Process

Aging bodies make less sex hormone such as estrogen and testosterone than younger bodies. One of the functions of sex hormones is to keep the bones healthy. Without these hormones, the skeletal structure of the spine begins to break down. Instead of a firm outer shell of a bone keeping marrow and other spongy material in place, the outermost parts of the bones begin to soften up.

The spine is made up of a series of sections called vertebrae. In a young person, the vertebra have no trouble keeping apart due to their firm skeletons. But softening of the bones causes the spine not to be able to stay straight by itself. It succumbs to gravity, so the uppermost vertebra press down on the lower ones. This can cause not only spinal compression fractures but a shortening of the spine, which is why people often shrink as they age.


Many people suffer backaches and think nothing of going to a doctor. They may believe their pain is a normal part of aging or mild arthritis. If left untreated, spinal compression fractures eventually weaken the spine to make it more prone to fracture and can deform the spine.

Women that have finished their menopause are most prone to spinal compression fractures. In order to prevent bone fractures, they need to consume more calcium in their diets and talk to their doctors or gynecologists about bone-strengthening medications. Aging women should continue to exercise regularly in order to help encourage the bones to stay strong and to keep a healthy body weight. Extra fat can put major strains on the spine and encourage the vertebrae to collapse.

Both women and men should stop smoking as smoking causes the bones to become brittle faster than those of non-smokers. Caucasian and Asian people are the most prone to softening bones and should definitely quit smoking.

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