Human beings tend to have more porous bones than our primate cousins. It has been theorized that over time, our lower bone density allowed our skeleton to absorb the increased stress of walking upright on two legs, instead of knuckle-walking on all fours. This advantage has its price though, as evinced in the human vulnerability to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by decreased bone strength. Although it can occur for a variety of reasons, it is most commonly seen as an age-related condition. In fact, osteoporosis is the most common reason for a broken bone among older people. People with osteoporosis suffer fractures in situations where others normally would not, resulting in the accompanying chronic pain and decreased mobility.
Osteoporosis is a serious condition with virtually no symptoms, but can be lessened or even prevented by modifications in lifestyle and treatment. Early diagnosis may result in the best outcomes, but even if advanced osteoporosis is diagnosed, it is not too late to begin treatment. If you fear you might be in a high-risk category for osteoporosis, contact the Ainsworth Institute of Pain Management today.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is also called fragile bone disease. Technically, a patient is classified as having the disease if they have a bone density of 2.5 standard deviations below that of a young adult. Reduced bone density causes bones to become weak and increases the risk for fracture. Any bone in the body may fracture, although the hips, vertebral bodies, and wrists are common fracture sites related to osteoporosis. Left unchecked and untreated, osteoporosis can progress to cause physical deformity and loss of stature.
Osteoporosis affects more than 44 million Americans. Women are four times more likely than men to develop this metabolic bone disease. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that by the year 2025, the costs associated with osteoporosis will approach $25 billion.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Weakening of the bones does not always cause symptoms. Many people do not know that they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs.
There are many risk factors for osteoporosis, including some that can be controlled. Considering that osteoporosis may be preventable in some cases, early efforts to reduce risk may prevent or delay its development.
Risks That Cannot Be Controlled
Gender (women are more likely to get osteoporosis than men)
Family history of osteoporosis or fractures
Small-boned and thin
Race (Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic are more likely to get osteoporosis)
Risks That Can Be Controlled
Eat a balanced diet
Adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D
Hormones: medication to control estrogen and/or testosterone levels
Regular weight-bearing exercise and physical activity
No smoking (or tobacco use)
Moderate use of alcohol
Drugs and Disorders That Increase Risk
Certain anticonvulsant drugs
The diagnosis of osteoporosis should be made by an expert physician. It will likely involve these steps.
Medical History – The physician will obtain a family history, including asking about prior fractures (if any), current symptoms, and lifestyle.
Physical Examination – The physician will examine the patient for movement limitations, balance problems, and pain. The physician may test reflexes at the extremities and evaluate muscle weakness, loss of sensation, and other signs of possible neurological problems.
Diagnostic Test – A dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan (also called bone densitometry) is a fast and painless test performed to measure bone density – the strength of your bones. Not only can the test diagnose osteoporosis, but is used to detect early stage bone loss (osteopenia).
Your doctor may then prescribe medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis. The type of medication depends on many things, including your age, gender, risk of fracture, and the status of your osteoporosis. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation may also be recommended.
The doctor may discuss modifying certain lifestyle factors that could be contributing to or exacerbating the condition. Physical therapies, such as weight-bearing exercises are also an important component of treatment.
The Ainsworth Institute is Here to Help
The doctors at the Ainsworth Institute of Pain Management specialize in treating osteoporosis. Dramatic improvements in pain and quality of life are a single phone call away. Schedule an appointment today with one of our board-certified pain management experts to discuss what options for treatment may best suit your needs.
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