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Staying Healthy

A broken back without the fall

September 1, 2019

Don't ignore back pain, height loss, or osteoporosis. They could be signs of a compression fracture.


You didn't fall, and you didn't do anything strenuous. So it may come as a surprise when the bad back pain you've been experiencing turns out to be one or more broken bones in your back. "A common story is that someone bends down to put something in the dishwasher or steps off a curb a little hard and puts additional load on their spine. The weakened bone is not adequate to take that load, and it collapses," says Dr. Julia Charles, a rheumatologist and bone cell researcher at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

What weakens the spine?

Your spine contains about 30 bones called vertebrae, stacked on top of each other like a roll of quarters. Each vertebra consists of an external bone surface (like plaster), and an inside filled with a honeycomb of support rods called trabeculae.

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