Vertebral body fractures
Vertebral body fractures are injuries to the spinal bones that can be caused by osteoporosis, spinal tumors, or
trauma and can result in either the gradual or sudden onset of back pain and/or neurological symptoms.
Osteoporosis of the spine
The spinal bones (vertebrae) are particularly vulnerable to osteoporosis – a common condition in which the
density and quality of the bones decrease. When bones are compromised by osteoporosis, it may not take much
trauma to fracture brittle and weak vertebrae. Even the simple activities of daily living, like bending,
coughing, or lifting may put osteoporotic bones at risk.
A tumor is a mass of abnormal tissue that can be found anywhere in the body.1 The spinal bones
(vertebrae) are a site where tumors can occur in some people.2 Spinal tumors are most commonly
secondary, or metastatic, meaning that they originate from a primary tumor elsewhere in the body and spread to
spine through the lymph nodes or bloodstream.3 In addition, spinal tumors can also form in either
vertebrae themselves or from the tissues that form the spinal cord and nervous system; these are known as
spinal tumors. Occasionally, spinal tumors can become large enough that they put pressure on the spinal cord
nerves. If this happens, a variety of neurological symptoms, such as numbness or weakness in the arms or legs,
develop. Spinal tumors may also cause damage to or even lead to the collapse of one or more vertebral
bodies.4 As a result, the tumor may put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and/or cause pain
at the site or radiating down the arms or legs.2
Spinal trauma is another way doctors refer to any injury to the bones, ligaments, or muscles of the spine. It
may occur due to low-impact injuries like falling from standing, or from high-impact injuries like motor
accidents or falling from heights. Symptoms may include pain, numbness or tingling in the arms, legs, groin or
pelvis, weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs, or in extreme cases, loss of bowel or bladder control.
While some spinal trauma may only cause minor injuries such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain, other
trauma may cause significant injuries like fractures or dislocations of the spinal bones (vertebrae).
already weakened by osteoporosis can lead to vertebral fractures after even minor injuries or a low level of