Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bone that is common in women after menopause. Many women can be suffering from osteoporosis and not know it until they suffer a fracture somewhere in their body. A spinal compression fracture can occur in the course of normal activity and can be very painful.
So if the disease is silent, what are the symptoms of compression fractures?
- Pain and difficulty when twisting or bending (more than normal)
- Curving in the spine
- Shortening of the spine (loss of height)
- Sudden and severe back pain that worsens when standing
- Relief of pain when lying down
In extreme cases, osteoporosis that causes compression fractures in the cervical spine can lead to kyphosis or “dowager’s hump.” A simple fracture and the less common kyphosis can both be extremely painful.
Pain for osteoporosis can be relieved with a combination of over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin, and narcotics for short-term severe pain relief. Both OTC medications and prescriptions have side effects and risks associated with them. Because of this, other good ways to cope with pain caused by osteoporosis compression fractures include applying hot and cold treatments to the affected area and participating in physical therapy to rehabilitate the muscles around the injured area.
Patients can also use braces for support and seek out alternative treatments like massage and acupuncture. Some patients may also benefit from the temporary use of an antidepressant, as there is a higher incidence of depression in those suffering from chronic pain.
You can protect your bones from the start by:
- Eating a diet high in calcium
- Participating in weight-bearing exercises like hiking or walking
- Doing strength training (lifting weights or using body weight exercises)
Activities like yoga and Pilates focus on the proper alignment of bones and strengthening the muscles for support and can help prevent further (or future) injury. If you do sustain a compression fracture due to osteoporosis, rest when you need to and allow your body to heal. See your doctor for the treatment plan that fits your injury best.
What healing techniques work best for you?
Image by James Jordan via Flickr