Osteoporosis is the most common cause of a compression fracture in the spine, but traumatic back injuries and tumors can also lead to broken vertebrae, according to MedlinePlus. When a vertebral bone becomes weakened, it collapses or compresses and results in immobility or disfigurement, notes WebMD.
Aging is a major factor in the onset of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weaker and thinner, and people over 50 who have osteoporosis have a high risk of spinal fractures, says WebMD. Women are especially susceptible to vertebral fractures; about 40 percent of women over the age of 80 have had a spinal fracture. People with severe back pain due to a spinal fracture have difficulty sitting, walking or lifting objects, resulting in a loss of independence. Even making small movements causes excruciating pain.
Compression fractures sometimes cause no initial symptoms, but gradually, they lead to a loss of height, pain that isn't felt when resting but gets worse when walking, and a hunched-over posture called kyphosis, explains MedlinePlus. Treatment for these fractures includes calcium supplements to avoid more fractures, physical therapy, wearing a back brace, surgery and a medicine called calcitonin that relieves back pain. Three common surgical procedures for this condition are vertebroplasty, balloon kyphoplasty and spinal fusion, but if the fracture is due to a tumor, other procedures are used to remove bone.