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Osteoporosis Back Pain: Symptoms and Treatment


Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 01-Dec-2022

  • Over 2.3 million Canadians are living with osteoporosis; a condition that affects the bones of the spinal column called the vertebrae.
  • Osteoporosis can weaken the spine, decrease bone strength, and increase the risk of vertebral and spinal fractures causing severe back pain. 
  • Fortunately, by understanding the symptoms and the best treatment options, you can manage these fractures, relieve osteoporosis back pain and reduce disability.

Osteoporosis is a disorder that affects the bones. It decreases bone strength and significantly increases the risk of fractures. Osteoporosis-related bone fractures commonly occur in the wrist, hip, and spine due to the constant movement in these parts. Bone fractures due to osteoporosis can be difficult to heal and can often lead to other health and musculoskeletal complications. Vertebral fractures can not only cause chronic lower back pain but can also lead to respiratory and gastrointestinal health conditions. Moreover, the cumulative effect of multiple vertebral fractures can be devastating and life-threatening, because if you’re suffering with osteoporosis, your bones simply cannot withstand normal strain and pressure. This often results in adverse health effects from simple movements such as bending over, sneezing, turning quickly, or lifting a grocery bag.

What Causes Osteoporosis Back Pain?

Osteoporosis back pain is mainly caused by compression fractures to the vertebrae or spinal column. It can result in sharp, excruciating pain in the lower back and may be felt predominantly around the site of the fracture. Mostly the pain of vertebral fractures is experienced in the thoracic (mid-back) and sometimes in the lumbar (low back) region. 

Multiple bone fractures in the spinal column can also lead to musculoskeletal disorders and can profoundly affect your physical appearance. It can contribute to a hunchback’s physical state and lead to rounding of the back, known as dorsal kyphosis, or dowager’s hump. Osteoporosis can even cause degenerative changes in joints, disks, and bones, making your spine progressively more misaligned. Cumulative compression fractures in the vertebrae and the functional disability due to osteoporosis can all lead to severe back pain.

What Are The Symptoms of Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is also known as a “silent” disease. It doesn’t show any typical disease symptoms and therefore, in most cases, goes undetected. Usually, a bone fracture is the initial sign of osteoporosis. Some people even experience spine malformations, multiple fractures even without serious trauma, compression features, and loss of height.

Some of the most common symptoms of Osteoporosis include:

1. Constant Bone Fractures: 

Osteoporosis causes low bone mineral density which can ultimately leave you predisposed to low-impact, bone fractures. Even mild pressure on the bones or impact from a fall can cause fractures, most commonly in the hip, wrist, or spine.

2. Receding Gums: 

Osteoporosis affects every bone in your body. It even makes your jawbone weaker and can result in tooth loss. Periodontal disease due to osteoporosis is an infection that affects the soft tissue and bone supporting your teeth. 

3. Abnormal Spinal Curvature: 

Osteoporosis affects the bones of your spine and can cause the front of the vertebrae to collapse. This results in an abnormal spinal structure called the degenerative kyphotic spine. This spinal curve can result in breathing issues because of increased pressure on your lungs. 

4. Lower Back Pain: 

Osteoporosis weakens the bones in your spinal column which makes it extremely painful under normal stress. Low bone density in your back can cause problems throughout the entire musculoskeletal structure leading to severe lower back pain.

5. Reduced Height:

Vertebral osteoporosis can transform your physical appearance by leading to a crumpling and collapse of the spinal vertebrae. This leads to hunched posture, curving of the shoulders, and thickening waistline which could even result in hip fracture, and, of course, reduced height. 

6. Weaker Handgrip: 

A lack of handgrip strength is linked to low bone mineral density which is caused by osteoporosis. The loss of skeletal muscle mass associated with osteoporosis will make it difficult for you to hold an object firmly in your hands. 

The Best Treatment for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis treatment mainly involves a focus on preventing fractures and strengthening the bones. Physiotherapy exercises and medications are recommended to help speed up the bone-building process for anyone suffering from osteoporosis.

1. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is an effective treatment method for preventing and managing osteoporosis. Physiotherapy for osteoporosis includes regular exercises, bone-strengthening exercises and weight-bearing activities or resistance training to keep your bones strong and healthy. 

Physiotherapy programs also include balance and posture training sessions that are essential in preventing falls. Lack of balance and stability among those suffering from osteoporosis is the number one cause of falls and trauma. Even a simple fall can cause severe fractures to the bones which can take months to heal. Therefore, with proper physiotherapy exercises, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling and experiencing a fracture. 

Poor body posture can also put stress on your lower back which causes spinal fractures and can result in severe back pain. An important part of a physiotherapy program focused on osteoporosis is training exercises for improving your posture. This will significantly reduce vertebrae fractures and can also relieve lower back pain

Some other benefits of physiotherapy for osteoporosis treatment include:

  • A reduced impact on bones from falls as the muscles surrounding the bones and joints become stronger, more elastic and better able to absorb stress. 
  • Increased bone density and reduced damage caused by fractures. 
  • Stronger core muscles and a reduced risk of bone damage.
  • The ability to target bones that are the most vulnerable and that have a higher chance of experiencing osteoporosis fracture. 
  • Relief from lower back pain caused by vertebral fracture or compression. 

General exercises and weight lifting programs are not recommended for osteoporosis as they can actually cause damage to your bones and result in injuries. Physiotherapy programs are based on a custom treatment plan that reflects the severity of your osteoporosis, your health status, lifestyle, and various other critical factors. 

2. Bisphosphonate Medication

Bisphosphonates are drugs that prevent low bone density and are useful in slowing down the rate at which bone is broken in your body. Bisphosphonates are analogs of naturally occurring inorganic pyrophosphate. It’s essential for restoring bone mineralization and is also found in body fluids that include synovial fluid, plasma, and urine. Bone mineralization is important for healthy and strong bones. Those suffering from osteoporosis tend to lose bone minerals faster than they’re regenerated. By taking bisphosphonate-based medications, you can prevent your bones from losing calcium and other minerals by reducing or eliminating the natural processes that dissolve bone tissue.

There are several different types bisphosphonates, including:

  • Risedronate (Actonel)
  • Alendronate (Fosamax)
  • Ibandronate (Boniva)
  • Zoledronic Acid (Reclast)
  • Pamidronate (Aredia)
  • Etidronate (Didronel)


Frequently Asked Questions About Osteoporosis

Q1: Does osteoporosis cause pain if there are no fractures?

Answer: No. Osteoporosis often progresses without any pain and is not diagnosed until bones fracture. This is why it’s usually called the “Silent Disease”. If you experience any symptoms of osteoporosis, you should visit your nearest doctor to undergo imaging and lab tests.

Q2: At what age do you start experiencing Osteoporosis?

Answer: Osteoporosis often affects about one in five women over the age of fifty, but only one in twenty men over the same age. It sometimes even develops in children and is called juvenile osteoporosis. 

Q3: Can health supplements prevent osteoporosis?

Answer: No. But certain health supplements can improve bone strength and restore bone mineralization. This will prevent bone fractures, to an extent. The best health supplements for osteoporosis contain the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin D 
  • Magnesium 
  • Boron 
  • Vitamin K
  • Soy isoflavones 
  • Calcium

Q4: What are some quick remedies to treat osteoporosis back pain?

Answer: Pain relievers like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can provide temporary relief from osteoporosis back pain. You can also try prescription pain drugs and antidepressant medications. 


Overcome Osteoporosis Back Pain with Physiomed

Physical activity is highly recommended by doctors for combating osteoporosis because it maintains and strengthens your bone health while improving muscle strength to better support your bones. At Physiomed, our physiotherapy treatment plans can help you prevent and treat osteoporosis through carefully prescribed and monitored exercise programs. We can also help you with nutritional and lifestyle counseling, so that you can improve your diet to most effectively support your physical treatment. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis or think you may be at risk, contact us today and let us show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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