When you have osteoporosis, bone fractures are high on the list of concerns. You'll want to take steps, like lifestyle changes and medicine, to help prevent them.
The most common fractures for people who have osteoporosis are in the spine, hip, wrist, and forearm. They each have their own long-term effects, but they do have some things in common.
General Issues With Fractures From Osteoporosis
No two fractures are exactly alike. The effects on your life depend on which bone you break and how serious it is. But some things you can expect include:
Pain. This is different for everyone. The fracture itself may take months to heal, but the pain can linger for years. It might have a ripple effect on your other bones, muscles, and joints as you change the way you do things to try to make it hurt less. Living with pain also can affect your quality of life, sleep, and mood, sometimes leading to depression. Talk to your doctor, who may suggest:
Problems with movement. Spine and hip fractures in particular can make it hard for you to get around. They affect walking, bending, pushing, and pulling. You can get help by using tools like a cane, a walker, or long-handled reachers.
When you don't move around much, you're more likely to have problems like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and mental health conditions, such as anxiety. Your doctor can help you find ways to prevent or treat these conditions.
Emotional issues. It can be tough when things that used to be simple take more time or energy because of an injury -- or you can't do them at all. It may also make it harder to get out of the house, see friends, and get back to your normal social life. All those can affect your relationships. See a mental health professional who can help you manage problems you might have with anger, anxiety, hopelessness, or a sense of lost dignity.
When your vertebrae -- the small bones of your spine -- get thin and weak, it doesn't take a fall to break them. They can just start to crumble. And you may not feel any pain when it happens.
Your vertebrae work together to support your body, so a fracture can keep you from bending, leaning, and twisting the way you do every day -- as when you tie your shoes or take a shower. And once you have a spinal fracture, you're more likely to have another one.
If more than one vertebra starts to crumble, you may have a hunched-over posture that gets worse with time. This is a condition called kyphosis, or “dowager’s hump.” It can cause severe pain and affect your lungs, intestines, and heart.
That's why spinal fractures can lead to many other issues, including:
- Lack of appetite
- Long-term back pain
- Loss of height
- Nerve damage that causes numbness, swelling, and pain
- Pain in your belly
- Problems breathing
As with spinal fractures, hip fractures affect the way you move and do things for yourself. And once you've fractured your hip, you're more likely to do it again.
Since you may be in bed as you heal -- and not very active -- hip fractures can lead to:
- Blood clots in your legs or lungs
- Muscle loss
Your health care team will help you avoid or manage these problems.
Wrist and Forearm Fractures
These can hurt a lot, but they tend not to have the same far-reaching effects as spinal and hip injuries. But they can still cause problems in your everyday life.
After all, you use your wrists and hands for so many tasks around the house and out in the world. For example, you might find it harder to write, cook, and do basic grooming tasks like brushing your teeth if the pain doesn't go away.
Your doctor or a physical or occupational therapist can help you find solutions to these issues.