At the Center for Better Bones, I frequently see middle-aged women who have just received a bone density test and have been told they have the bones of an “80-year-old” or something equally frightening. Many become terrified, and some start to wonder if that lower back pain they experience from time to time could really be from a dreaded spinal fracture. Usually this isn’t the case, but the worry created by the medical pronouncement can produce long-term damage, both physically and emotionally. So I always recommend finding out whether there really is any existing spinal fracture, or even any slight deformity. This can now be done by a special x-ray test known as the “Vertebral Deformity Assessment” or the “Vertebral Fracture Assessment.”
Just like the bone density test, the Vertebral Deformity Assessment uses special x-ray beams to image the bone. In this case the x-ray is able to image each vertebral body of the spine detecting if any are crushed, wedged, or in any way deformed or fractured. The Vertebral Deformity Assessment can be done on the newer bone density testing machines that have special software for this purpose. For this test, a side or lateral view of the spine is used. This new spinal x-ray can also be done and interpreted by knowledgeable radiologists using other x-ray technology.
If you do have vertebral fractures, take heart: this is your chance to take action to strengthen your bones. It’s never too late to alter lifestyle factors and improve your nutrition in ways that halt bone loss and begin to build new bone. And if you don’t have vertebral fractures but are still concerned about your overall fracture risk, use our Bone Health Profile to determine your likelihood of future fractures — you may find that you’re in better shape than you think!