Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density and strength. ‘Thinning of the bones’.
It usually occurs in older age, especially in women. After menopause they are at much greater risk. The older you get, the more likely it is to occur.
Bones that are thinner and weaker are more likely to break. Osteoporosis shows up on X rays and is diagnosed with a bone density test.
Common problems of advanced osteoporosis are bone pain, especially with crush fractures of the spine and fractures of the top of the leg, the neck of the femur.
If you have osteoporosis and you fall, you are more likely to break bones, especially your wrist. A fractured neck of femur is a common injury after a fall but many of them occur before the fall and not surprisingly, that makes them go down quick. Given the shock and speed of the episode it can be hard to determine if the pain started before or after the fall.
Spinal fractures most often occur in the middle of the thoracic spine or upper back, about the level of the bottom of the shoulder blades.
This can occur at any time because the curve of your spine means that this mid part of your back gets the most pressure because it’s the apex of the curves.
The whole weight of your upper body is constantly pressing down on your spine. The greatest pressure is at the apex of the curves so they are the most likely to give way under excessive pressure. If you have a fall or lift something to heavy for you, this is the area most likely to be damaged
A classic way of causing a compression fracture in this mid upper back is opening those up down windows, especially if they are a bit stiff, which old wooden windows tend to be. Having a fall can do it too.
If you do get a fracture associated with osteoporosis it usually gives you a sharp pain straight away but it may not start hurting for a few days. The pain is moderate to severe, feels deep and is usually fairly constant.
Especially if you’re older and you have developed spinal pain, particularly in the mid back, after a lift get an x ray to rule a fracture in or out.
If it is fractured there’s not much you can do while it’s healing except rest, lying down is good, pain killers, perhaps diazepam (valium for the muscle spasm), and heat.
Fractures typically take 5-7 weeks to heal. With osteoporosis 8-10 is perhaps more realistic.
Get it moving
Like all fractures the thing you need to do after the bone has healed is get the area moving again at least as well and preferably better than it was before your injury. This can be with physical therapy, exercise and stretching. Water is a really good place to start as it gives a tremendous amount of support. This is an excellent way to exercise if you have arthritis.
To avoid osteoporosis or slow or reverse it’s progress, drugs such as fosimax and caltrate have been used effectively for years. Speak to your doctor about these.
Perhaps the most useful thing you can do is exercise. Bone density stays strong in response to activity. Walking is a classic. You use all of your muscle, move all of you’re joints and have the impact of your feet striking the ground. Gentle impact is excellent for promoting bone density.
Resistance training with weights is also excellent but make sure you get proper instruction.
Eat a diet rich in calcium. Dairy and meat are good sources.