What are the signs and symptoms of vertebral fractures due to osteoporosis?

Updated: Jan 20, 2021
  • Author: Rachel Elizabeth Whitaker Elam, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Osteoporosis does not become clinically apparent until a fracture occurs and so is sometimes referred to as the “silent disease.” Two-thirds of vertebral fractures are painless, although patients may complain of the resulting stooped posture and height loss. Typical findings in patients with painful vertebral fractures may include the following:

  • The episode of acute pain may follow a fall or minor trauma.
  • Pain is localized to a specific, identifiable, vertebral level in the midthoracic to lower thoracic or upper lumbar spine.
  • The pain is described variably as sharp, nagging, or dull; movement may exacerbate pain; in some cases, pain radiates to the abdomen.
  • Pain is often accompanied by paravertebral muscle spasms exacerbated by activity and decreased by lying supine.
  • Patients often remain motionless in bed because of fear of exacerbating the pain.
  • Acute pain usually resolves after 4-6 weeks; in the setting of multiple fractures with severe kyphosis, the pain may become chronic.

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