Spinal complications are common effects of osteoporosis. These include spinal fractures and spinal stenosis. Medications, lifestyle changes, and exercises can help you manage osteoporosis and prevent spinal issues.
About 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will develop a bone fracture because of osteoporosis, reports the International Osteoporosis Foundation. The spine is one of the most common sites of osteoporotic fracture.
Most people with osteoporosis don’t develop any noticeable symptoms until they fracture a bone. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age, particularly after menopause in women.
If your doctor thinks you’re at risk of a fracture, they might prescribe medications to help reduce your bone loss. Regular exercise can also help keep your skeleton strong as you age.
Read on to learn more about spinal osteoporosis, including complications and treatment options.
We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this disease. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances relate to symptoms and treatment of this condition.
Women seem to develop osteoporosis at a younger age than men and at a
Loss of bone density from your vertebrae can weaken them until they collapse. When this happens, it’s called a compression fracture.
Compression fractures almost always occur in the
Spinal fractures are the
Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms until it leads to a fracture.
Once your bones are severely weakened, you may develop symptoms such as:
- loss of height from compression of your spine
- back or neck pain
- stooped posture
Possible complications of spinal osteoporosis include the following:
Spinal compression fractures occur when the front part of a vertebra cracks or collapses. Experts usually define them as a
- moderate to severe pain that gets worse with movement and lasts
4 to 6 weeks
- sudden back or neck pain
- eventual height loss
- limited spinal mobility
- spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is when the space inside your vertebrae becomes too narrow and puts pressure on your spinal cord. It can cause symptoms such as:
- back pain
- pain or aching that radiates down your buttocks and into your legs
- numbness or tingling in your legs and feet
- neck pain
- weakness in your hands or arms
- numbness and tingling radiating down your arms and into your hands
- loss of bowel control
- loss of bladder control
- impaired sexual function
Kyphosis is the medical term for a forward rounding of your upper back. Kyphosis may develop as a complication of compression fractures. It can cause symptoms such as:
- breathing difficulties
- loss of mobility
Research suggests a connection between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Healthcare professionals characterize osteoarthritis as the degeneration of a joint from wear and tear.
You can usually treat osteoporosis with a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
The most prescribed medications for osteoporosis are called bisphosphonates. These medications slow down the rate your body breaks down bone tissues. You can take them by mouth, or a healthcare professional can administer them intravenously (IV).
The bisphosphonate alendronate (Fosamax) may reduce rates of hip and spine fractures by
Learn more about osteoporosis medications.
You may be able to slow bone loss at home in the following ways:
- If you smoke cigarettes, quit.
- Eat a balanced diet high in calcium and vitamin D.
- Consider calcium and vitamin D supplements if you don’t get enough through your diet.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Try to exercise for at least
30 minutesa day, three to four times per week.
The most effective program for reducing spinal fractures is likely a program made up of a
Experts typically recommend two types of exercises for people with osteoporosis:
- Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as:
- stair climbing
- low impact aerobic exercises
- Strength and resistance exercises, such as:
- free weights
- resistance machines
- banded exercises
Strength training exercises seem to increase bone density, specifically in the
The outlook for people with osteoporosis is generally good if it’s detected when bone loss is in the early stages. You can often improve bone mineral density with early treatment of bisphosphonates.
The outlook is significantly worse after a spinal fracture. Women who fracture a vertebra have an increased risk of another fracture in
Osteoporosis is a lower-than-normal bone density. It’s very common in aging adults.
Spinal fractures are one of the most common complications of osteoporosis. A spinal fracture can cause severe complications if it leads to compression of your spinal cord.
Regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and not smoking are some of the best ways to manage osteoarthritis at home. Your doctor may prescribe medications if they think you’re at a high risk of fracture.