Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease," because most of the time, bone loss occurs without any symptoms at all. But when osteoporosis becomes severe, it can lead to fractures and a condition called kyphosis. Kyphosis is spinal compression, sometimes described as the "dowager's hump." Both fractures and kyphosis can be very painful. This pain is usually more severe than the typical "aches and pains" many people feel as they get older.
Fractures and Compression Cause Osteoporosis Pain
The most common cause of osteoporosis pain is a spinal compression fracture. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or if you have several risk factors for osteoporosis, these symptoms may indicate a compression fracture:
- Sudden, severe back pain that gets worse when you are standing or walking
- Some pain relief when lying down
- Pain and difficulty in twisting or bending
- Loss of height
- Curvature of the spine
Bones are fragile in osteoporosis. Fractures and osteoporosis pain can occur even from simple movements that don't seem dangerous. Examples of these movements include lifting a bag of groceries, twisting to get out of a car, or tripping slightly on a rug or step.
Fractures can take months to heal. The pain should start to go away as the healing process progresses. However, for some people, osteoporosis pain can become chronic. Your doctor can recommend options for managing and reducing pain. These options include medication and other therapies.
Medication to Relieve Osteoporosis Pain
Medication is the most popular way to manage osteoporosis pain. Drugs include:
- Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are safe pain relievers for most people. These may cause stomach irritation and bleeding or liver problems.
- Narcotics can help in the short-term with acute pain. They should not be used for chronic pain. They have troublesome side effects and can be addictive.
- Antidepressant medication is sometimes prescribed to help people cope with chronic pain. These medications may be prescribed when other forms of pain relief have not helped.