What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors
Osteoporosis is characterized by a decrease in bone mass that makes it hard for the body’s bones to properly maintain the pressure that an individual’s weight places on them.
A reduction in bone mass results in brittle bones that easily fracture. When bones are extremely fragile, common actions such as bending over or even coughing can cause a fracture. The most common types of fractures that occur as a result of osteoporosis develop in the wrists, hips, and the spine and typically occur when an individual falls.
Causes of OsteoporosisBone disease is the primary cause of osteoporosis, but a number of additional risk factors increase the occurrence of this condition.
Additional risk factors include:
- Gender: Women tend to develop osteoporosis more than men
- Age: The occurrence of osteoporosis increases with age
- Family history: A history of osteoporosis in the family increases the occurrence
- Hormonal imbalances: These include hypothyroidism or reduced estrogen levels
- Dietary habits: Inadequate calcium consumption, an eating disorder, or excessive tobacco use or alcohol consumption can increase the occurrence of osteoporosis
- Medication use: Steroid consumption and corticosteroid medications may increase risk
Individuals with osteoporosis have a higher risk of developing vertebral compression fractures, which can cause deformities, serious back pain, and decreased mobility.
During the early stages of osteoporosis, the symptoms may be dormant and this often delays a diagnosis. Once the symptoms start, a person may begin to gradually feel pain or notice a reduction in height, which is the result of spinal curving and damage to the spinal vertebrae. In order to determine if an individual is at risk for developing this condition or already has it, a physician typically performs a bone mineral density test. The test records the percentage of bone mass that an individual has and this allows a physician to choose a preventative method or treatment approach that may be helpful.
Treatments for Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis treatments that are commonly suggested include:
- Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty
- Opiod medications
Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are minimally invasive techniques that involve inserting a needle into the region where inflamed spinal vertebrae are located. Correct needle placement is ensured by the use of X-ray imaging or fluoroscopy. For the vertebroplasty procedure, the needle is used to inject cement into the spinal column as a means of restoring spinal length and reversing excessive spinal curvature. The kyphoplasty procedure entails placing one or two inflatable balloons between the vertebrae, instead of injecting cement. Physicians typically prefer to go with kyphoplasty over vertebroplasty in order to avoid complications that may arise if the cement that was placed during vertebroplasty leaks. The operating time for kyphoplasty is also shorter, which lowers the amount of time a patient is exposed to the radiation that the imaging equipment emits.
Although vertebroplasty has a longer operating time and radiation exposure periods, it is more effective at promoting vertebral compression fracture healing and repair than kyphoplasty. On the other hand, kyphoplasty procedures generally result in the rapid decrease of chronic pain as well as faster recovery rates in addition to restoring spinal column length. Reports indicate the both techniques can produce significant pain relief that may be experienced within 48 hours of undergoing either procedure.
Physicians may also prescribe opioids such as codeine, methadone, morphine, or oxycodone as a means of treating osteoporosis pain. These types of pain-relievers are stronger than over-the-counter medications or even prescription-strength medicines, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Opioids are typically only prescribed for a short period of time as prolonged consumption may cause drug abuse or dependence as well as an accidental overdose.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice that has been commonly used to treat chronic pain. The process involves placing needles at specific points on the body where the pain is originating from and various additional areas that may also be causing the pain. Placing the needles in specific regions has been shown to reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Acupuncture also causes the body to release pain relieving hormones called endorphins, which makes this procedure quite effective at reducing chronic pain. Since the establishment of traditional acupuncture with needles, additional types that have been established include electroacupuncture, which entails utilizing electrical pads or electrically charged needles, as well as manual or finger acupuncture, and laser acupuncture.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which decreases in bone mass lead to fragile bones that can fracture easily. Bone disease causes most cases of osteoporosis, but other factors such as age, gender, hormonal imbalances, and family history may also contribute to osteoporosis. Common treatment methods include vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, opioids, and acupuncture. Each of these methods has been shown to effectively reduce inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, patients may experience pain relief from conservative treatment approaches such as prescription pain relievers. If medication is ineffective, a variety of additional treatments have been established that have demonstrated the ability to reduce the symptoms of osteoporosis.
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