Even if you’ve long been aware that you fall into one of the demographic groups most at risk of developing osteoporosis – Asian or Caucasian, female, and slight of build – you may assume that these risks only really develop after menopause. However, this isn’t always the case, and those who develop osteoporosis at a younger-than-expected age may find themselves dealing with serious back pain and a limited range of movement as compression fractures and other problems begin to manifest much earlier than anticipated. Read on to learn more about the biological factors that can cause compression fractures of the spine, as well as some of the most effective treatment options designed for those who are dealing with chronic osteoporosis-related back pain well before their golden years.
How can osteoporosis lead to spinal fractures?
Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening condition marked by a loss of bone density. Osteoporosis is much more common among women than men, and having children can often exacerbate this bone loss (as a growing fetus can demand a significant amount of calcium, often more than a pregnant mother can consume or produce on a daily basis). Many new mothers have been dismayed to find that their first postpartum visit to the dentist was marked with reports of new cavities; indeed, childbearing can even impact the strength of one’s teeth.
When bones are less dense, they’re more prone to fracture – both the splintering type of fracture most often pictured when someone reports they’ve broken a bone, and “compression fractures,” which involve the literal shortening of the bone as it is compressed. Compression fractures are most common in the spine, and can result in a marked decrease in height; in fact, in order to be defined as a compression fracture, a vertebral bone must have decreased in height by at least 15 to 20 percent.
Multiple compression fractures can be enough to rob you of an inch or more of height and can also cause searing pain whenever you sit, stand, or lie in one position for more than a few minutes. However, in patients who are young enough not to be considered at a high risk of osteoporosis, these compression fractures can often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.
What are your best treatment options for osteoporosis-related compression fractures?
The most effective treatments for spinal compression fractures involve a two-step approach – first, treating the osteoporosis and strengthening the bones, then managing the pain and lack of mobility these fractures may cause. Simply pursuing surgery or non-surgical treatment methods to manage the fractures won’t do anything to prevent future fractures, and certain operations (like spinal fusion) may actually make your problems much worse.
To strengthen your bones, you’ll want to immediately increase your consumption of calcium and Vitamin D. In some cases, you may want to opt for a prescription supplement to strengthen your bones; while these prescription medications can have some intimidating side effects, they’ve also been shown to be effective at rebuilding bone, key for young patients who will need dense bones to lead an active lifestyle in the future.
You’ll also want to consider physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles. Often, the way you sit, stand, or bend to retrieve items can put additional strain on your fractures; training your muscles to support your spine rather than fighting against it can go a long way toward reducing the bone-on-bone pain you might be feeling. Spinal braces designed to separate your vertebrae and hold them in place can also give them the support they need to fully heal and can often be worn unobtrusively underneath your regular clothing.
To learn more, contact a medical center like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.