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About Spinal Fractures

A spinal fracture occurs when one of the bones in the spinal column breaks. This type of fracture is also known as a vertebral compression fracture because the bone that breaks (the vertebral body) often cracks and collapses, becoming compressed.

The bones in your spinal column are different than the bones elsewhere in your skeleton. For example, the long bones in your legs are more rigid and dense than the square bones in your spine.

Strong, dense bone enables your legs to withstand rigorous movement. The vertebral bodies, however, are less dense and more “spongy,” to accommodate movements like bending and twisting. Because your vertebral bodies aren’t as strong as the bones in your legs, they can become more vulnerable to fracture.

Certain diseases, such as osteoporosis or cancer, are known to cause loss of bone mass and changes in bone structure, making them brittle and weak. Genetic factors and certain lifestyles, such as a low calcium diet, can also damage bone. Over time, the vertebral bodies can become so weak that normal activities such as bending over or lifting a bag of groceries, can cause a spinal fracture.

You can’t feel the changes in your bones while they are happening. In fact, many people are unaware that there is anything wrong until a fracture occurs.

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Last update: 4/4/2012 © Medtronic Spine LLC.
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