Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease. This means it can develop without any signs. In the case of osteoporosis, bone loss occurs without symptoms. That said, subtle signs of osteoporosis may be joint and bone pain or a loss of height.
Most patients don’t know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture. Most commonly, osteoporotic fractures occur at the spine, the wrist or the hip, although osteoporotic fractures can occur in other bones as well.
Vertebral Compression Fracture (VCF)
The vertebrae are the blocks (bones) in your back that are stacked on top of each other to make your spine. With osteoporosis the blocks become hollow boxes. Compression fractures occur when the vertebrae collapse. The most common complication of osteoporosis is vertebral compression fracture (VCF). These can occur while going about one’s daily activities, such as bending or carrying heavy loads, or as the result of a minor fall. Spinal compression fractures may lead to difficulty walking or loss of balance, leading to an increased risk of falling and breaking a hip, or other bones.
The compression fracture may range from mild to severe. A mild compression fracture causes minimal pain and deformity and is often treated with activity modification. At Huffman Clinic, we often treat painful compression fractures with kyphoplasty.
Your doctor will likely advise you to see them if you have back pain, even if it seems ordinary. While most fractures are obvious, spinal fractures can be more difficult to diagnose. They can be painless, or if there is pain, you may not know it is caused by a fracture due to the many different causes of back pain.
There are a few signs that may alert you to a spinal compression fracture—back pain and changes in posture. One or more of the following symptoms can indicate a vertebral compression fracture:
- Sudden, severe back pain
- Worsening of pain when standing or walking
- Some pain relief when lying down
- Pain when bending or twisting
Over time, multiple fractures can cause your spine to shorten and abnormally curve forward. This forward curve is called kyphosis, often called “dowager’s hump” or “humpback.” If you have severe kyphosis, you may also experience difficulty walking and problems with balance, which means you are at increased risk of falling and breaking other bones, such as the hips.
In serious cases of spinal osteoporosis, the nervous system is affected, and you may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness.
Your doctor will likely want to see you if you have back pain or poor posture-even if you think it’s just a natural part of aging. This is especially true for post-menopausal women, as the hormonal changes that occur during menopause put women at a heightened risk for bone loss.
Since there are usually no outward signs of osteoporosis developing, doctors will often recommend diagnostic testing depending on your age and other risk factors for the disease.
Disclaimer – All information is for educational pursuit and information purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for official medical advice. The viewer should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding their medical condition, diagnosis, procedures, treatment plan, or other health related topics.