Osteoporosis is a medical condition that makes bones weak. They become brittle and vulnerable to wear and tear. It is a very common bone ailment with around 10 million people being diagnosed with osteoporosis in India every year.
With osteoporosis and the accompanying calcium deficit, the chances of the bones of the spine breaking are quite high. Sometimes, cracks develop along with the spinal bones. These fractures are called vertebral compression fractures. And they are responsible for severe back pain. The pain intensifies and makes activities like standing up, sitting down or walking or lifting objects difficult hard.
How can you tell that your bones have developed fractures?
Orthopedic Doctors often find it hard to diagnose spine fractures because not all patients show the symptoms of bone fractures. But the usual symptoms are-
• Severe and unmitigated back pain
• Sharp jabbing pain when you stand up or sit down
• Pain when you try to twist your body or try to bend forward.
• You begin to slouch or the spine becomes curved
• Loss of height
If the fracture is located in the lower spine it causes more pain than an upper spine fracture. Sometimes more than one bone fractures in the spine.
Risks of spine fracture
Women are at greater risk of getting spine fractures, especially women over 50 when their bone density decreases. The older a woman gets, the weaker her bones become. Around 40% of all women in their 80s have a spinal bone fracture.
Treatment for a spinal fracture
If your doctor suspects that you have a spine fracture, she/he will recommend an X-Ray or a computerized tomography (CT). Based on the result of the tests, your doctor will suggest
• Further tests especially a dual x-ray absorptiometry which measures your bone density and the severity of your osteoporosis. Once your treatment starts, you might have to get this scan periodically so that your doctor can judge how well the treatment is working.
• Medicines to build your bone strength.
• Pain and anti-inflammatory medication to subdue your backache. The dosage will depend on the intensity of the pain.
• Calcium and vitamin medicines to repair bone damage
• Physiotherapy sessions to restore full functionality and mobility of the spine. You might be advised to go on regular walks to increase the flexibility of your spine.
• You might have to purchase a brace for your back which heals your spine by holding the bones in place for long stretches of time
• Rest and relaxation because your body needs a lot of energy to heal bones.
• If chronic back pain continues unabated despite rest and medication, surgery might be needed.
Can spine fractures be prevented?
Osteoporosis causes bone fractures and so the best way to protect your bones is to prevent osteoporosis. Even if osteoporosis has set in, you can reverse it or stop it from deteriorating.
• One of the chief reasons for osteoporosis is obesity. So you should exercise regularly to keep weight gain in control.
• Avoid fad diets because they might leave you malnourished which might take a toll on your bones.
• Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking and cut down on coffee.
• Make sure your diet consists of leafy green vegetables, dairy products especially cottage cheese, fish and nuts-all of which contain calcium. Calcium strengthens your bones
• You will need Vitamin D (the best source is the sun) which helps process calcium.
Osteoporosis is an enemy to your spine. But with proper treatment, the effects of osteoporosis and calcium deficit can be overturned.