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Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures - Symptoms and Treatments

Dr. Phani Kiran 89% (10 ratings)
MBBS, MS - Orthopaedics, DNB - Orthopedics
Orthopedist, Chennai  •  16 years experience
Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures - Symptoms and Treatments

Osteoporosis is a condition wherein the bones become brittle and weak; so much so that even mildly stressful activities such as coughing, bending over or even a slight fall (such as the one from a high rise chair) can result in fractures. Osteoporosis-related fractures commonly occur in the spine, hip or the wrist. The human body has a continuous mechanism of bone absorption and removal. In case of osteoporosis, the creation of new bones doesn’t happen in accordance with the removal of old bones.

Spinal Fractures:

The bones of the spine get extremely vulnerable to breakage and even cracking open. The fractures in the spine, also known as vertebral compression fractures can cause a sharp stinging pain in the back that may make sitting, standing, or even walking a very tardy task.

Risk Factors:

  1. Increasing age
  2. Abnormally less or high body weight
  3. Smoking
  4. Menopause or low levels of sex hormones
  5. Gender: This disorder is more likely to affect women as compared to men. Also, women, who are above 50 are more likely to suffer from this debilitating disorder.
  6. Race is a significant risk factor of osteoporosis. If you are of Asian descent, you are more likely to be affected by it.
  7. Having a family history of osteoporosis will put you at a greater risk of this disorder.

The pain typically happens with a slight back strain during an everyday activity like:

  • Lifting a bag of groceries
  • Bending to the floor to pick something up
  • Slipping on a rug or making a misstep
  • Lifting a suitcase out of the trunk of a car
  • Lifting the corner of a mattress when changing bed linens

Symptoms  of Spine Fracture:

  1. Fractured or collapsed vertebra causing back pain
  2. A stooped posture
  3. A shrunken appearance (as if one has had loss of height)
  4. Very fragile bones, thus increasing risks of fractures
  5. Severe and sudden pain in the back
  6. Difficulty in twisting or bending the body

Lower spine fractures are way more troublesome as compared to fractures in the upper spine. Fracturing more than a bone in the spine also remains a huge possibility.

Who’s Most Likely to Get Spine Fractures?

Women, especially those older than 50, are most likely to get spine fractures. By age 80, about 40% of women have had one.

Your age makes a difference, too. As you get older, your bones become thinner and weaker, and you’re more likely to have osteoporosis. Women and men who have osteoporosis have much higher chances of getting spine fractures.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Firstly, an X-ray or a computerized tomography (CT scan) will be done to have a closer look at the bones. A bone density test is another commonly used method of diagnosing osteoporosis.

  1. Steroids and medications: Some medications may be used to prevent or combat osteoporosis. These include alendronate, ibandronate, risedronate and zoledronic acid.
  2. Physical therapy: Just like muscles, bones get stronger too when you exercise. Weight-bearing and muscle- strengthening exercises are the most helpful in this regard and are considered best for the treatment of osteoporosis. Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging or even swimming can prove to be immensely beneficial.
  3. Diet: Make a diet chart that includes high-calcium food items, dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and low-fat milk, tofu, green vegetables such as collard greens and broccoli, sea fish such as salmon and sardines.
  4. Salt: Limit salt intake
  5. Therapy: Hormone replacement therapy (treatment method consisting of estrogens to alleviate and treat symptoms of osteoporosis) is another method of treatment that can be recommended by the doctor.

Prevent Spine Fractures:

The best way to prevent them is to prevent osteoporosis. Even if you already have it, you can take steps to keep it from getting worse. Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and get regular exercise, especially the weight-bearing and muscle strengthening kinds. Ask your doctor if you need a bone mineral density test to see how strong your bones are. It is never too early -- or too late -- to prevent bone loss.

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