Some 700,000 Americans each year suffer a spinal fracture stemming from osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones. If you're one of them, there's a good chance that your doctor suggested treating it by injecting medical-grade cement into your spine to support the bone, a procedure called vertebroplasty.

The only problem: Researchers have known for almost a decade that this technique was ineffective for many people with a spinal fracture.

Here's why some doctor's continue to perform it and what you should do instead.

Old Thinking

When you have osteoporosis your bones weaken, including those in your spine. Those vertebrae can fracture, compress, or flatten, which can be painful and debilitating.

In the late 1990s, University of Virginia radiologists injected such compression fractures with medical-grade cement—and some reported feeling better.

Within a few years tens of thousands of people were having vertebroplasty, and by the end of the 20th century it was a billion dollar per year industry, says Vinayak K. Prasad, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine, public health, and ethics at the Oregon Health & Science University and co-author of “Ending Medical Reversal”).

What to Do Instead

But in 2009, doctors at the Mayo Clinic compared patients with spinal fracture undergoing vertebroplasty with patients who had a sham procedure where saltwater was injected instead. They found no differences between the two groups.

Other studies have since found similar results, and a 2015 Cochrane review concluded that vertebroplasty was no better than the sham surgery for most people with a spinal fracture.

Yet many doctors continue to do the procedure, which carries risks of infection, bleeding, and numbness, says David Kallmes, M.D., the Mayo Clinic radiologist who authored the 2009 research.

Kallmes says that most osteoporotic spine fractures can instead be treated with more conservative methods, such as over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine, bracing, and physical therapy before healing on their own.

If you remain in severe pain for a month or so despite those measures, vertebroplasty may be worth a try, he says.

And read more about how to treat back pain.