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What is Osteoporosis?


Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of bone. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports approximately 54 million Americans have low bone mass and osteoporosis. As the bones become increasingly frail, the risk of fractures increases. In severely weakened bones, mild stresses such as coughing or bending can cause bones to fracture. Fractures often occur in the bones of the hips, wrists, and shoulders, but most fractures caused by osteoporosis occur in the spine (compression fractures). Compression fractures can cause physical defects in the spine, such as a “humpback,” as well as back pain, tingling, and weakness.

While there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are things that can be done to help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones, such as medication and weight-bearing exercise. Osteoporosis treatment may also include treating complications of the condition, such as surgery to repair compression fractures and stabilize the spine, to alleviate pain and further complications.

You don’t have to live with perpetual back pain. The board-certified surgeons and specialists at Back Pain Centers of America have helped thousands of patients heal various spine conditions through minimally invasive procedures. Call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to learn more about how we can help you.

Osteoporosis can lead to pain

Osteoporosis Causes and Risk Factors

Our bodies make new bone and break down old bone constantly. Before we reach our twenties, our body can make new bone faster than it breaks down the old, increasing our bone mass. As we age, our bone mass is lost faster than it’s made. How much bone mass is made before we reach our peak plays a role in how likely we are to develop osteoporosis later.

There are several risk factors that increase your chances of getting osteoporosis; some you can do something about and others that you have no control over. The following are risk factors that you cannot change:

  • Your age –The risk of osteoporosis increases with age.
  • Family history – Osteoporosis runs in families.
  • Body frame – Men and women with smaller frames have less bone mass to draw from.
  • Your ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Your sex – Statistically, more women get osteoporosis than men.

Speak to your doctor about things that you can do to prevent osteoporosis. Listed below are some of the conditions and medications that cause bone loss and raise the risk of osteoporosis:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Scoliosis
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Low sex hormone levels (testosterone, estrogen)
  • Overactive adrenal and parathyroid glands
  • Steroids
  • Certain cancer medications and chemotherapy
  • Some anti-seizure medications
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
  • Antacids

Risk factors that you can control include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle – An inactive lifestyle and sitting for long periods increases the risk of osteoporosis.
  • A diet low in calcium – Poor dietary choices, such as not eating enough leafy greens, dairy, and other sources of calcium, can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Smoking and tobacco products – Tobacco has been linked to bone degeneration and the development of osteoporosis. Smoking has also been found to slow healing after spinal fusion and other spine surgery.
  • Alcohol abuse – Drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day increases the risk of osteoporosis.

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Osteoporosis Symptoms

Often called a silent disease, osteoporosis isn’t something you can usually feel until there is significant bone loss. Most often, the osteoporosis symptoms that first alert someone to the condition is a bone break, a noticeable curving of the spine, or a loss of height. Back pain due to a compression fracture in the spine is also a common first sign of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Osteoporosis treatment varies depending on the severity of the bone loss, which can be determined from a bone density test, and your risk of fracture. Osteoporosis treatment may include a combination of medication and lifestyle changes including:

  • Bisphosphonates, such as zoledronic acid
  • Denosumab
  • Teriparatide
  • Hormone-related therapy
  • Calcium supplements
  • Diet rich in calcium and protein
  • Vitamin D
  • Weight-bearing exercises
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

The goal of osteoporosis treatment is to prevent bone loss and fractures. Unfortunately, fractures can still happen even with treatment and a bone break is often the first sign of the condition. If osteoporosis causes fractures, your treatment will include treating the broken bones. Depending on the location and type of fracture, this may involve casting or surgery. Spinal compression fractures are the most common types of osteoporosis fractures. There are different surgical procedures for treating compression fractures, including minimally invasive procedures such as kyphoplasty, which is an outpatient procedure that is performed through a tiny incision. Minimally invasive treatment for osteoporosis is effective and offers patients an alternative to open spine surgery with a considerably shorter recovery.

If back pain is preventing you from doing the things you love, Back Pain Centers of America can help. Call us now at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgeries. We’ve helped thousands find relief from chronic back pain and can do the same for you. Don’t delay relief!

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