A sacral stress fracture is a small break in the sacrum. The sacrum is a large triangular bone at base of the spine. The sacrum connects to the pelvis.
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Sacral stress fractures can be caused by repetitive stress or weakened bones.
Sacral stress fractures are most common in young athletes and older women with osteoporosis. Other factors that may increase your chance of a sacral stress fracture include:
The most common symptom of a sacral stress fracture is low back pain. If you have unexplained lower back pain, talk to your doctor. Prompt treatment can prevent the injury from causing further problems.
Other symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a spine specialist or a surgeon who specializes in bone problems.
Imaging tests evaluate your bones and other structures. These may include:
In general, treatment depends on the cause and severity.
Treatment options for a sacral stress fracture include:
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your back in place while it heals. Supportive steps may include a corset or brace.
Fractures due to osteoporosis are treated with partial weight bearing. A cane or other device will be used for this.
Medications to treat sacral stress fracture include:
If you have osteoporosis, your doctor will recommend medications that will increase bone density and reduce your risk of another fracture.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Fractures caused by physical stress need rest, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice may be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling. Gentle massage, heat, and transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) may also be used to relieve pain.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation for strengthening exercises.
There are some treatments that are not invasive that may help reduce healing time by stimulating bone growth. These treatments include:
If other treatment does not work, surgery may be required. Surgery is generally indicated if the break is unstable, there are nerve problems, or the sacrum is not properly aligned. Bones are reconnected and held in place with screws or a plate.
To help reduce your chance of a sacral stress fracture, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
The University of British Columbia Department of Orthopaedics
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Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013