Osteoporosis – Definition, Causes, Treatment Options

Osteoporosis is a common condition, with more than 75 million people worldwide being affected each year. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, this bone disease causes 8.9 million fractures annually1. Because it is usually associated with hip fractures among men and woman over the age of 60, it cannot be taken lightly; osteoporosis and its repercussions play a significant part of mortality among elderly people. How? The statistics show that overall mortality reaches nearly 20% in the first 12 months after a hip fracture and is higher in men than women2. Although the fracture itself isn’t usually deadly, the repercussions (such as limited mobility, loss of normal functioning, etc.) can lead to other serious conditions. What is osteoporosis? What are some of the risk factors? How is it treated?  We will answer those and many more questions below in this detailed article on: Osteoporosis – Definition, Causes, Treatment Options.

Osteoporosis – Definition

According to the IOF, osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone decrease. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs3. Bones affected by osteoporosis are more prone to various fractures (with most fractures occurring in the hip, wrist or spine). As mentioned above, it is quite a common condition among elderly people. Why? Bones are constantly rejuvenating. Old material is replaced with new to keep the bones strong and resilient. As we grow older, we lose more bone material than we grow; therefore, the bones become less solid and dense, and more prone to various factures. A healthy bone can be easily differentiated from one affected by osteoporosis. While the inside of a healthy bone is very dense, an affected bone has a honeycomb-like structure – it is literally filled with holes. Even the slightest trauma (a fall or a hit) can cause it to break.

The risk factors – what causes osteoporosis?

The studies show that osteoporosis is often is rooted in genetics. However, there are many risk factors that increase the probability of developing it. They include, although are not limited to:

  • Physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle – the modern lifestyle can lead to many health conditions, including osteoporosis. Sitting at a desk all the time, driving everywhere instead of walking, a lack of any exercise whatsoever – all of these factors contribute to muscle loss which, as a result, causes the bones to have less support and protection
  • History of injury – a previous fracture also increases the risk of osteoporosis. Any fracture causes the bone to weaken and therefore be more prone to breaks and fractures in the future
  • Smoking – smoking actually decreases bone density, and as we’ve already learned, bones with low density are much weaker
  • Long-term use of proton pump-inhibiting drugs (i.e. those used to reduce reflux and stomach acid) can reduce the absorption of calcium, which is the main component responsible for keeping bones strong
  • Overweight and obesity – additional weight puts additional burden on the bones, which can lead to their deterioration
  • Weight loss – sudden weight loss can also contribute to osteoporosis as it can be accompanied by bone loss4
  • Osteoporosis and spine fractures

The bones within the spine can also be affected by osteoporosis. Many patients that complain to our spine surgeon in Broward County about back pain are actually affected by osteoporosis. Some of the symptoms that may indicate that the spine is affected are:

  • Sudden and very intense back pain
  • Trouble walking, standing, getting up, etc.
  • Pain getting worse with movement
  • Loss of height (shrinking)

A fracture within the spine can be diagnosed with the use of an X-ray or a CT scan. If you are experiencing pain in your back or are having trouble moving around, don’t hesitate to consult our spine surgeon in Broward County. The sooner the fracture is identified, the sooner the treatment can start.

Treatment Options

There are many effective treatment options for patients struggling with osteoporosis. Medications, Physical Therapy, proper exercise, better nutrition – it all depends on the patient. Here in our facility, we focus mainly on spine fractures. A spine weaken by osteoporosis can be treated in many ways, but a proper diagnosis and customized treatment approach are essential components of the healing process. Below are just some of the treatment options provided at our center – for more information about them, or if you have any questions about back surgery in Fort Lauderdale or Delray Beach, don’t hesitate to contact us!

About Dr. Hepler, our spine surgeon in Broward County

If you are struggling with back pain, we invite you to schedule an appointment with our orthopedic spine surgeon in Palm Beach County. Dr. Hepler is a leading orthopedic spine surgeon in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale with fellowship training in both adult and pediatric spine surgery. He has a subspecialty interest in complex spine reconstruction, including scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis, but he treats all spine conditions, including disc herniations, radiculopathy, discogenic disc disease, lumbar and cervical stenosis, and traumatic and osteoporotic fractures. He is also an expert in back surgery and spinal stenosis treatment in Palm Beach County.