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11.12.2015 | Original Article | Ausgabe 5/2016 Open Access

Osteoporosis International 5/2016

A painful, never ending story: older women’s experiences of living with an osteoporotic vertebral compression fracture

Osteoporosis International > Ausgabe 5/2016
H. K. Svensson, E. H. Olofsson, J. Karlsson, T. Hansson, L.-E. Olsson



Vertebral compression fractures (VCF) cause pain and decreased physical ability, with no known well-established treatment. The aim of this study was to illuminate the experience of living with a VCF. The results show that fear and concerns are a major part of daily life. The women’s initial contact with health-care providers should focus on making them feel acknowledged by offering person-centered and tailored support.


In the past decade, osteoporotic-related fractures have become an increasingly common and costly public health problem worldwide. Vertebral compression fracture (VCF) is the second most common osteoporotic fracture, and patients with VCF describe an abrupt descent into disability, with a subsequent desire to regain independence in everyday life; however, little is known of their situation. The aim of this study was to illuminate the lived experience of women with an osteoporotic VCF.


Ten women were interviewed during 2012–2013, starting with an open-ended question: could you tell me what it is like to live with a vertebral compression fracture? The verbatim transcribed interviews were analyzed using a phenomenological hermeneutical approach.


The narrative provided descriptions of living in turmoil and chaos, unable to find stability in their life with little improvement regarding pain and physical function. Shifts from periods of constant pain to periods of fear of constant pain created a loss of confidence and an increased sense of confinement. The structural analysis revealed fear and concerns as the most prominent experience building on five themes: struggling to understand a deceiving body, breakthrough pain fueling fear, fearing a trajectory into isolation, concerns of dependency, and fearing an uncertain future.


Until researchers find a successful prevention or medical/surgical treatment for osteoporotic VCFs, health-care providers and society abandon these women to remain in a painful and never ending story.

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