Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ


My mother fell this week and started having severe back pain about three days later. X-rays showed two rib fractures and a vertebral compression fracture. She can hardly get out of bed because of the pain. She's 86-years old. Can anything be done to help her?


Pain relief is the first goal of treatment. She may be helped by medications for this. If her general health is good, she may alsobe a candidate for a procedure called balloon kyphoplasty.

During this operation, the surgeon inserts a long, thin needle into the vertebral body. There is a deflated balloon on the end of the needle. Once inside the bone, the balloon is inflated and filled with cement. Once the cement hardens, the main body of the vertebra is restored in height and strength.

Older adults confined to bed or with decreased activity after vertebral compression fracture have a poor prognosis. The body becomes deconditioned quickly. Further bone loss occurs and puts them at increased risk for further fracture.

Balloon kyphoplasty is safe and effective even for older adults. The quick pain relief can restore function and improve activity level right away. You may want to ask her doctor if she is a good candidate for this procedure. If not, what other methods of treatment are advised? Steven R. Garfin, MD, et al. Balloon Kyphoplasty for Symptomatic Vertebral Body Compression Fractures Results in Rapid, Significant, and Sustained Improvements in Back Pain, Function, and Quality of Life for Elderly Patients. In Spine. September 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 19. Pp. 2213-2220.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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