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

Magdalena Rzewuska*, Manuela Ferreira, Andrew J. McLachlan, Gustavo C. Machado, Christopher G. Maher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: 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). Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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 - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesics
  • Conservative treatment
  • Orthoses
  • Systematic review
  • Vertebral compression fracture


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