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Healthy bones can support quite a bit of pressure, but when vertebrae become soft or weakened by osteoporosis, they can fracture easily. Osteoporosis causes bones to lose their density and become very brittle. Fractures can happen even from simple movements that don’t seem dangerous. Osteoporosis is the most frequent cause of a vertebral compression fracture and its subsequent pain.
Not everyone with a vertebral compression fracture experiences the same symptoms. Sometimes patients only experience minimal or mild pain.
The most common symptoms of osteoporosis and vertebral compression fractures include:
- A curved or hunched spine called kyphosis or a “dowager’s hump”
- Loss of height
- Back fatigue, due to excess muscle strain used to hold up the spine
- Leg weakness
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Sudden, severe back pain that radiates around the waist and gets worse when you are standing or walking with some relief when you lie down
- Difficulty twisting or bending your body, difficulty getting out of bed
Most vertebral fractures will heal after weeks of rest, over-the-counter pain medication, and a gradual increase in activity. The pain should subside as the bone begins to repair itself.
However, for some people, osteoporosis pain can last longer, and other therapies may be necessary. These include:
- Prescription medications for pain
- Bracing to stabilize the spine and reduce pain
- Physical therapy to strengthen the core muscles surrounding the spine and encourage newer, pain-free ways of moving
- Antidepressant medication to help deal with chronic pain
- Biofeedback to learn relaxation skills and ease pain
If medication, physical therapy, rest, or other techniques don’t work for your pain, your doctor may recommend surgery. See Surgery for Spinal Compression Fractures for more details about these surgical procedures.
Why Choose Weill Cornell Medicine for Osteoporosis Pain?
The expert physicians at the Weill Cornell Medicine Division of Pain Management work closely with a broad team of specialists to help our patients suffering from pain associated with osteoporosis and vertebral compression fractures. Our focus is on helping our patients regain independence, functionality, and improve quality of life.
Our specialists take a multi-disciplinary, patient-centered approach to care. After assessing your case, we will tailor a treatment plan that may include medication, pain management, and physical therapy. When surgery is part of the plan, we offer the most advanced minimally invasive techniques.
Weill Cornell Medicine often offers clinical trials as well, giving patients access to treatments that may not be available elsewhere. Learn more about Pain Management's current clinical trials.
The Center for Comprehensive Spine Care is made up of Neurology, Pain Management, Neurosurgery, Physiatry, Radiology, and Psychology — providing personalized, precision medicine. We employ some of the most sought-after vertebral compression fracture doctors in New York City.