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Jennifer Lucas - Nov 17, 2023 - 7 min read - 1k Likes

Compression Fracture Physical Therapy

When an individual experiences a compression fracture in the spine, the journey to recovery often involves various forms of treatment. One crucial aspect of this recovery process is physical therapy.

In this article, we’ll explore the role of physical therapy in managing compression fractures, from understanding the condition to the components of an effective treatment plan.


Compression fractures are a prevalent spinal injury, often resulting from conditions like osteoporosis or trauma. These fractures can cause debilitating pain, reduced mobility, and postural issues. However, physical therapy offers a promising path to rehabilitation, enabling individuals to regain function and comfort.

Understanding Compression Fractures

Causes and Risk Factors

Compression fractures occur when a vertebra in the spine collapses or becomes compressed. The leading causes include:

  • Osteoporosis: Weakening of bones, either due to age-related factors or secondary to other medical conditions, can lead to compression fractures.
  • Trauma: Accidents, falls, or sports injuries can also result in these spinal fractures.

Common Symptoms and Complications

Compression fractures often present with symptoms such as:

  • Back pain: Typically localized to the affected area.
  • Loss of height: Gradual reduction in height, often seen over time.
  • Limited mobility: Reduced ability to bend or twist.
  • Postural changes: Alterations in posture, such as a stooped or hunched appearance.

Left untreated, compression fractures can lead to complications like chronic pain, spinal deformities, and a decreased quality of life.

The Role of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone of rehabilitation for compression fractures. It is a non-invasive and highly effective approach to address pain, improve mobility, and restore function. The primary goals of physical therapy for compression fractures are twofold: pain relief and functional recovery.

In essence, physical therapy for compression fractures offers a comprehensive approach to address both the immediate pain and the broader objective of restoring functionality.

It is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the patient, with tailored treatment plans designed to meet individual needs. Through a combination of pain management techniques and functional recovery strategies, physical therapy plays a pivotal role in the healing journey of those affected by compression fractures.

Components of Compression Fracture Physical Therapy

Pain Management Techniques


Physical therapists employ various modalities to alleviate pain, including:

  • Heat therapy: Application of heat to relax muscles and reduce pain.
  • Cold therapy: Using cold packs to reduce inflammation and numb the affected area.


Specific exercises are designed to target and alleviate pain. These may include:

  • Stretching: Gentle stretching exercises to reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility.
  • Core strengthening: Strengthening the core muscles to provide stability and support to the spine.

Mobility and Flexibility Improvement

Limited mobility is a common issue with compression fractures. Physical therapists work on:

  • Restoring Range of Motion: Techniques to regain flexibility in the spine and surrounding joints.
  • Functional Mobility: Training individuals to perform everyday movements without discomfort.

Muscle Strengthening

Muscle weakness can result from reduced activity due to pain. Strengthening exercises are crucial:

  • Targeted Muscle Groups: Exercises focus on the muscles that support the spine.
  • Gradual Progression: The intensity of exercises increases as strength improves.

Posture Correction

Maintaining proper posture is essential to prevent additional strain on the spine:

  • Ergonomics: Educating individuals on proper body mechanics and lifting techniques.
  • Postural Training: Teaching patients how to sit, stand, and move without exacerbating their condition.

Balance and Stability Training

Compression fractures can affect balance and stability. Physical therapy includes:

  • Balance Exercises: Techniques to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Stability Training: Strengthening exercises that enhance overall stability.

Education on Safe Movements

Preventing re-injury is crucial. Patients learn:

  • Movement Techniques: Safe ways to perform daily activities to avoid strain.
  • Long-term Spine Health: The importance of ongoing care for their spine.

Management of Osteoporosis

For those with osteoporosis-related fractures, managing the underlying condition is vital:

  • Lifestyle Modifications: Advising on diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
  • Medications: Discussing the use of medications to strengthen bones.

Use of Assistive Devices

In some cases, assistive devices like braces or orthotics may be recommended:

  • Providing Support: These devices offer additional support during the healing process.
  • Customization: Tailoring the use of devices to individual needs.

Setting Functional Goals

Physical therapy is highly individualized, and setting functional goals is a collaborative process between the therapist and the patient. Goals may include regaining the ability to walk without pain or improving posture.

Monitoring Progress

The rehabilitation journey is ongoing. Physical therapists continually assess progress and adapt treatment plans to meet evolving needs. Regular follow-up appointments are essential.

Monitoring progress in compression fracture rehabilitation serves as a continuous feedback loop. It allows physical therapists to fine-tune and optimize treatment approaches, ultimately fostering a more effective and efficient recovery process.

The commitment to ongoing assessment and adaptation ensures that patients receive the highest standard of care and the best chance at regaining their mobility and functionality while managing pain effectively.


Compression fracture physical therapy is a vital part of the recovery process. It offers individuals a path to pain relief, improved mobility, and a better quality of life. If you or a loved one is dealing with a compression fracture, seek professional guidance and embark on a journey to recovery through physical therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Is physical therapy the only treatment option for compression fractures?
  • While physical therapy is a significant component of treatment, the approach may vary based on the severity of the fracture and the individual’s overall health.
  1. How long does it typically take to see improvement with physical therapy?
  • The timeline for improvement varies, but many individuals experience relief within a few weeks of starting therapy.
  1. Are there any exercises that should be avoided during compression fracture recovery?
  • Yes, certain exercises that involve heavy lifting or excessive twisting of the spine should be avoided. Your physical therapist will provide guidance on safe movements.
  1. Can compression fractures lead to permanent disability?
  • In some cases, if left untreated or inadequately managed, compression fractures can lead to long-term complications. However, early intervention and appropriate treatment can mitigate these risks.
  1. Is physical therapy painful for individuals with compression fractures?
  • Physical therapy is tailored to each individual’s pain tolerance and condition. Therapists use gentle techniques to minimize discomfort while promoting healing and recovery.

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Jennifer Lucas - Author

As an accomplished Orthopedic Surgeon, I am dedicated to the comprehensive care and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. With a commitment to excellence, I specialize in diagnosing and managing a diverse range of orthopedic issues, including fractures, joint disorders, and sports-related injuries.

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