A disease that thins bones over time, osteoporosis causes bones to become fragile and susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis generally affects women more than men.
What is Osteoporosis?
- When bones thin over time and become porous and fragile, the disease is called osteoporosis. Most don't know they have osteoporosis until they have a bone fracture, which occurs mainly in the hip, wrist, or spine. Spine fractures from osteoporosis are what cause pain.
- The disease affects more women than men and is more common in people who have a family history of the disease. Preventing osteoporosis includes a variety of measures such as controlling your estrogen level, eating foods with vitamins and minerals that promote bone growth, and exercise.
- Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because of how unnoticeable symptoms are until they progress. Sometimes when pain occurs from vertebral fractures, patients still believe they just have simple back pain.
- Letting osteoporosis go untreated may lead to other illnesses, deformities, and even death.
What causes it?
There are two types of osteoporosis. Type 1 osteoporosis mainly develops after women go through menopause. The drop in estrogen levels leads to bone loss of the spongy inside bone. As for type 2 osteoporosis, it develops in patients ages 65 and older, and causes the spongy inside and hard outside bone to thin.
Most people achieve their most bone mass around 30 years old, and afterwards bone is thinned more than grown in the body. Once the bones reach a point of thinning that is fragile and brittle, then osteoporosis can be diagnosed. It affects four times more women than men because women's estrogen levels drop after menopause, and low estrogen levels mean low bone growth.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis are varied, and include uncontrollable and somewhat controllable causes. For example, having a family history of osteoporosis, being a woman over age 65, and an ethnicity of White or Asian makes you much more susceptible to osteoporosis. Also, some disorders like endocrine, collagen, eating, and gastrointestinal disorders may speed up bone loss.
Controllable causes include: lowered estrogen levels, history of broken or fractured bones, low body weight, calcium and vitamin D deficiency in the diet, sedentary lifestyle, excess alcohol intake, smoking, drinking excess carbonated beverages, and lowered testosterone in men.
How do you treat it?
Patients with osteoporosis and in pain are not experiencing pain from the disease, but from a symptom of the disease. Weak bones may lead to fractures in the spine, which causes the pain. Conservative treatments may include slowing bone loss and preventing more fractures.
Some conservative treatments include: proper diet with calcium and vitamin D, physical therapy, and medication to prevent bone loss. As for vertebral fractures, these may heal with small amounts of rest, bracing, and hot and cold applications. However, if these methods do not significantly help heal fractures, then surgery may be recommended.
Surgical procedures focus on minimizing and stabilizing the vertebral fracture. If the fracture has caused significant loss of vertebral mass, then spine fusion surgery may be recommended.
If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for spinal surgery, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.