What Is a Compression Fracture of the Arm?

A compression fracture of the arm, commonly known as a buckle fracture, is a type of bone injury that occurs as a result of sudden and intense pressure applied to a bone. Unlike other types of fractures, which may be caused by external forces such as falls or direct trauma, compression fractures arise from a specific mechanism. As a result, this type of fracture typically presents as a partial break in the bone, often characterized by outward bulging or deformation. Understanding the distinctive nature of compression fractures is crucial in their diagnosis and treatment, as they require a tailored approach to ensure proper healing and restoration of arm function.

Is a Compression the Same as a Fracture?

A compression fracture is a distinct type of fracture that occurs in the vertebrae, which are the bones that form the spinal column. This can cause pain, instability, and changes in posture.

One of the most common causes of compression fractures is osteoporosis, a condition characterized by a loss of bone density and strength. When the bones become weak and brittle, they’re more prone to breaking under even minimal pressure. Osteoporosis-related compression fractures often occur in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine.

This can occur as a result of falls, car accidents, or sports injuries. The force exerted on the spine can cause the vertebrae to collapse or fracture, leading to a compression injury.

Furthermore, tumors can also contribute to compression fractures. Tumors that originate in the spine (primary tumors) or spread from other parts of the body (metastatic tumors) can weaken the vertebrae and make them more susceptible to compression injuries. Tumors can damage the bone tissue, disrupt it’s structure, and compromise it’s strength, ultimately leading to fractures.

It’s important to note that while a compression fracture is a type of fracture, not all fractures are compression fractures. Fractures can occur in various bones throughout the body and can be caused by different mechanisms. Hence, it’s essential to differentiate between different types of fractures to accurately diagnose and treat them.

Symptoms and Signs of a Compression Fracture

  • Severe back pain
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Loss of height
  • Change in spinal curvature
  • Tenderness or bruising on the spine
  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Visible deformity of the spine
  • Limited mobility
  • Fatigue
  • Rib or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle spasms
  • Back stiffness

Compression fractures in the spine, specifically in the lower vertebrae of the thoracic spine, are the most common type of fractures.

Where Are Compression Fractures Most Common?

Compression fractures in the spine, known as vertebral compression fractures, occur most frequently in the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine comprises the middle portion of the spine, which is situated between the neck and the lower back.

The thoracic spine is unique in that it’s vertebrae are attached to the rib cage, providing stability and support to the upper body. However, this also means that the thoracic spine experiences a substantial amount of pressure and stress from daily activities, such as lifting, twisting, and carrying heavy loads.

Additionally, the lower vertebrae of the thoracic spine bear greater loads compared to the upper vertebrae. This is primarily because the lower thoracic spine is responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body and the contents of the abdomen, including organs and fluids.

As individuals age, their bones tend to become weaker and more prone to fractures. Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by low bone density and deterioration, further exacerbates this vulnerability.


Unlike other types of fractures caused by external force, buckle fractures earn their name due to the nature of the injury itself. These fractures may arise from a variety of situations, such as falls or direct impact. By understanding the causes and signs of buckle fractures, individuals can take necessary precautions, maintain bone health, and minimize the risk of such injuries.

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