Osteoporosis is a sneaky disease and is painless in the beginning stages of bone loss. As it advances, one can have painful fractures and bone deformities, such as dowager’s hump or kyphosis of the spine. These injuries can lead to loss of quality and quantity of life.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 54 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older. Among the 54 million, 10.2 million adults are estimated to have osteoporosis, of which more than 80% are women. Some estimates show that 1.5 million osteoporosis fractures occur every year in the U.S.
“Osteoporosis is a silent disease,” says Dr. Edith Cullen, a musculoskeletal physician at OSMC. “You won’t feel it early on, and that’s what makes it sneaky. Ironically, your greatest opportunity for prevention was when you were in your teens and twenties when your diet and exercise habits helped build strong bones.”
Not sure you did your part in your earlier years? Don’t throw in the towel quite yet. There is plenty you can do to protect your bones and decrease your risk of painful broken bones.
Sources of Osteoporosis Fracture Pain
The risk of a fracture, or broken bone, increases as your bones lose mass. Before osteoporosis sets in, a mishap like tripping and falling from a low height may have only caused a bruise. But when you have osteoporosis, that same fall can cause serious damage and even increase your chances of premature death.
The most common sources of pain include:
● Micro trabecular fractures. These are tiny cracks in the bone. These small fractures can lead to the loss of height (a red flag for osteoporosis as people age).
● Compression fractures. These fractures are compressions of the bony vertebral bodies in the spine. Compression fracture deformities cause pain, problems with eating, breathing, mobility, and balance.
● Nerve pain. Fractures of a vertebra from osteoporosis can compress a nerve, which causes pain.
● Stress Fractures: These fractures occur during routine daily tasks or activities without traumatic injury.
● Low Trauma Fractures: These occur with low trauma, such as a fall or other injury that would not ordinarily cause a fracture. These fractures may include a broken hip, pelvis, arm, wrist, or leg.
“You do not have to live through an osteoporosis diagnosis alone,” noted Dr. Cullen. “There are several solutions available, and your overall health will dictate your best options for pain management.”
The following solutions are most common when treating osteoporosis:
● Rest and rehab. Taking it easy may give your body some time to heal. However, we recommend you stay active through a physical therapy routine specifically for osteoporosis.
● Medication. Your doctor may recommend taking osteoporosis medications and bone-healthy vitamins and minerals. After a bony injury, your doctors will try to transition you off prescription pain medications quickly.
● Cold treatments. Applying cold to the area around the fracture as it heals may offer some pain relief.
● Bracing. Customized braces and assistive devices for walking or other motions can help reduce pain and help with bone healing.
“Your experience with pain and its resolution is unique,” explained Dr. Cullen, “so don’t compare your pain with that of a friend who has been through a similar procedure or trauma.”
May is National Osteoporosis Month. You can learn more about osteoporosis, fracture prevention, plus find a resource library and more on the National Osteoporosis Foundation website.
The orthopedic providers at OSMC believe in the importance of osteoporosis care and prevention. The key to this is regular screenings to measure your bone density. This allows your physician to identify when bone loss is occurring before you suffer a fracture. We can also recommend certain medications, lifestyle, and nutrient changes to slow the rate of bone loss.
Ask your OSMC physician what type of screening schedule might be right for you which will depend on your age and risk factors for the disease. Book an appointment easily online!