Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces bone strength making individuals more susceptible to fractures, particularly in the spine, hip, and wrist. Some of these fractures can lead to permanent disability, especially if they involve the hip and cause back pain.
Osteoporosis is known as a “silent disease” because symptoms do not usually manifest until a fracture occurs or one of more of the vertebrae collapse. Collapsed vertebrae can cause severe back pain, loss of height, and spinal malformations like stooping. Osteoporosis can make bones so fragile that fractures will occur spontaneously or with minor bumps, falls, and even coughing.
Nearly 700,000 people suffer from a spinal fracture secondary to osteoporosis each year, more than twice the number of broken hip and wrist bones. Osteoporosis can cause compression fractures of the back. A compression fracture may exist for some time before it is discovered. Symptoms of a compression fracture may cause back pain that starts out slowly and gets worse when walking, loss of as much as 6 inches in height, and kyphosis, also known as dowager’s hump.
The pressure on the spinal cord from hunched posture can rarely produce symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, difficulty walking, and loss of bowel or bladder control. When the small bones of the spine are weakened by osteoporosis, they can narrow or shrink making them highly susceptible to fracture. Most fractures and back pain caused by osteoporosis occur at or near the waistline.
Back pain will increase with sitting or standing for long periods of time, but can be relieved by lying down. Most back pain caused by osteoporosis do not cause injury to the spinal cord. The symptoms are usually treated with prescription medications, rest, and a calcium supplement. Some patients benefit from physical therapy to build muscle and strength around their spine.
Filed under: Back Problems
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