What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to thin and weaken gradually, making them susceptible to fractures. The condition develops when the creation of new bone cannot keep up with the removal of old bones. All bones can be affected by osteoporosis; however, the bones in the spine are among the most common to break as a result of this condition. Oftentimes, the bones become so weak when affected by osteoporosis that even mild stress, such as bending over, can cause a fracture.
What Causes Osteoporosis of the Spine?
Osteoporosis can be caused by the following:
- Conditions that affect the hormones
- Corticosteroids (a group of medications)
- Sedentary lifestyle
Where Can Osteoporosis of the Spine Develop?
Osteoporosis of the spine can develop in these areas:
- Lower back
- Middle back
- Upper back
Types of Osteoporosis of the Spine
There are three main types of osteoporosis:
- Osteoporosis of the cervical spine– Osteoporosis developing in the cervical spine affects the spinal vertebrae bones within the neck.
- Osteoporosis of the lumbar spine– Osteoporosis of the lumbar spine affects the bones in the lower section of the back.
- Osteoporosis of the thoracic spine– Osteoporosis of the thoracic spine weakens bones in the middle and upper back.
How Does Osteoporosis Affect the Spine?
A healthy spine is strong enough to withstand the impact of daily activates such as walking and lifting objects. However, due to a number of factors, osteoporosis can develop, and weaken the bones within the spine. The bones gradually deteriorate until they are weak enough that even a small amount of stress can lead to a fracture. Given that the back is used to supporting a large amount of the body’s weight, this means that the weakened bones can easily become fractured.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis of the spine?
Osteoporosis is considered a “silent” disease, meaning that it can be difficult to notice symptoms until a fracture has occurred.
However, keep an eye out for the following symptoms that may indicate a fracture caused by osteoporosis:
- Back pain that is relieved by lying down
- Back pain that occurs suddenly
- Back pain that worsens when standing or walking
- Disability or deformity of the back
- Height loss
- Limited mobility of the spine
What are the Risk Factors for Osteoporosis of the Spine?
A variety of factors can increase the likelihood of osteoporosis. Some common risk factors include:
- Age – As you get older, the risk for developing osteoporosis increases.
- Family history– Those with a parent or sibling affected by osteoporosis are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
- Gender – Osteoporosis is much more likely to develop in women than in men.
- Hormone levels – Those with abnormal sex and thyroid hormone levels tend to be more prone to osteoporosis.
- Low calcium diet – Consuming too little calcium over the course of your life can play a role in the development of osteoporosis.
- Race – Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in those of Asian or Caucasian descent.
- Sedentary lifestyle – Those who do not engage in regular physical activity have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Tobacco use – Smokers are more prone to osteoporosis, as tobacco use contributes to weakened bones.
- Use of certain medication – Those who have used oral or injected corticosteroid medications are more likely to develop osteoporosis, as these medications can interfere with the body’s bone-rebuilding process.
How Do I Prevent Osteoporosis of the Spine?
Osteoporosis can be prevented through a number of measures, including:
- Add both calcium and vitamin D to the diet
- Regularly perform weight-bearing exercises
- Regularly receive a bone density test