In honor of National Osteoporosis Month in May, we are going to discuss how this disease affects the spine. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. This disease can affect any bone in the body, including the spine. Let’s take a closer look at how osteoporosis can damage the spine and some tips on how to protect yourself.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to deteriorate and ultimately become weak and brittle. This happens when the body breaks down more bone than it can replace. The bones are then more susceptible to fractures. This disease can affect any bone in the body, including the spine.
Although the breakdown and generation of bone is a normal function, there are certain things that can lead to bone being broken down at a faster rate than it is rebuilt. There are several risk factors associated with osteoporosis:
-Family history: If you have a family member with osteoporosis, you are more likely to develop the disease.
-Age: Osteoporosis is most common in older adults.
-Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
-Body size: Small and thin people are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis.
-Certain medications: Steroids and anticonvulsants are just a few of the types of medication that can lead to bone loss.
-Eating disorders: Anorexia nervosa and bulimia can both lead to osteoporosis.
-Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can hinder the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which is essential for healthy bones.
-Excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to bone loss.
Certain medical conditions can also put you at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. These include problems with the thyroid, parathyroid, or pituitary gland, celiac disease, certain types of cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How Osteoporosis Affects the Spine
Osteoporosis can cause a number of problems in the spine. These include:
The most common symptom is back pain. As the bones in the spine deteriorate, they can begin to compress and crush the nerves that run through them. This can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in the back or legs.
Osteoporosis can also cause the spine to shrink in height. This is because the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine) begin to collapse. As the vertebrae collapse, they get closer together and the spine gets shorter.
Another common symptom of osteoporosis is a hunched posture. This happens because the collapsed vertebrae begin to press on the spinal cord. This is a spinal deformity known as “kyphosis” that can cause the shoulders to round forward and the head to jut forward.
Increased Risk of Spinal Fracture
Osteoporosis can also increase the risk of spinal fracture. A spinal fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the spine. This can happen with a fall or even from coughing or sneezing. Spinal fractures can be very painful and lead to further deformity of the spine.
Tips for Protecting Your Spine
There are several things you can do to protect your spine from osteoporosis:
-Regular doctor visits: Be sure to visit your doctor regularly and get a bone density test every one to two years. This will help catch osteoporosis early and allow you to start treatment.
-Eat healthy: Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong. Be sure to include plenty of dairy, leafy greens, and fatty fish in your diet.
-Stop bad habits: If you smoke or drink excessively, now is the time to quit. These habits can only make osteoporosis worse.
-Stay active: Exercise is important for maintaining bone strength. Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
-Visit your doctor for back pain: If you experience back pain that lasts longer than 1-2 weeks, be sure to visit your doctor. It could be a sign of osteoporosis or even a vertebral fracture.
By following these tips, you can help protect your spine from the effects of osteoporosis. Remember, osteoporosis is a serious condition that can lead to pain, deformity, and even disability. If you think you may be at risk, be sure to talk to your doctor.