The efficacy of conservative treatment of osteoporotic compression fractures on acute pain relief: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Magdalena Rzewuska* (Corresponding Author), Manuela L Ferreira, Andrew J McLachlan, Gustavo C Machado, Christopher G Maher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)



The aim of this study is to systematically evaluate the efficacy of commonly used non-surgical treatments in acute care of adults with osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures (VCFs).


A systematic approach was used to search eight electronic databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining analgesic medications, passive physical therapies, bed rest or orthoses. Data on pain, activity/participation and adverse events were extracted. Methodological quality and quality of evidence were assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale (score range 0–10) and the GRADE criteria, respectively.


Five RCTs (total n = 350) were identified including one placebo-controlled and four controlled trials examining analgesics (2 studies) and orthoses (3). PEDro scores ranged from 4 to 7. The overall quality of evidence ranged from very low to low. In two trials, spinal orthoses provided significantly higher medium-term pain relief [pooled standardized mean differences (SMD): −1.47, 95 % confidence interval (CI) −1.82, −1.13; I2 = 0 %] and disability reduction (pooled SMD: −1.73, 95 % CI −2.09, −1.37; I2 = 0 %) than no intervention. Immediate- and short-term pain effects of diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and tramadol (a strong opioid) were demonstrated when compared to a Chinese medicine, whereas non-significant effects were found for oxycodone and tapentadol (strong opioids) in a placebo-controlled trial. Low/insufficient statistical power, co-interventions and potential conflict of interest might have influenced the results.


At present, there is insufficient evidence to inform conservative care for acute pain related to VCF. Large, multinational, placebo/sham-controlled trials to address this gap in evidence are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-714
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Prof. Maher is supported by the Australian Research Council. Dr. Ferreira holds a Career Development Award at The George Institute for Global Health. Mr Machado holds the International Post-graduate Research Scholarship-Post-graduate Award from the Australian Government.


  • systematic review
  • ertebral compression fracture
  • conservative treatment
  • analgesics
  • orthoses


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