It’s National Osteoporosis Awareness Month and a great time to review the causes and complications of this progressive problem.
Since osteoporosis often attacks the spine, Dr. Patrick McNulty — one of the country’s leading spine experts — is uniquely qualified to discuss how osteoporosis can lead to a debilitating back condition called kyphosis. Here’s what you need to know.
All about osteoporosis
Osteoporosis means “porous bone,” a debilitating disease that puts you at risk for unexpected bone fractures. The condition strikes when the disease depletes your bone mass and strength, and it often occurs without warning symptoms or pain.
Unfortunately, you typically discover osteoporosis after experiencing a painful fracture in your hip, spine, or wrist fracture.
About 54 million people in the US and 200 million people worldwide have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects men and women, but ladies are four times more likely to get it. About half of all women and a quarter of all men over age 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
Osteoporosis is a silent thief that steals away our bone density, leading to more than 2 million fractures annually, and the numbers are rising. But there's no need to just stand by idly — you can take preventive measures to safeguard your bone health.
The link between osteoporosis and kyphosis
Kyphosis, also known as round back or hunchback, is a spinal disorder that can happen at any age, but is most common during adolescence and adulthood.
While many cases of kyphosis pose no issues and don’t require treatment, severe cases can cause significant spinal deformity, pain, and even breathing problems. To remedy this, treatment options such as back braces and physical therapy may be helpful. However, patients with severe kyphosis may require surgery to reduce the excessive curve of the spine for a more comfortable and functional life.
Poor posture, degenerated discs, and spine structure abnormalities can cause kyphosis, as can osteoporosis.
Vertebral fractures or compression fractures that occur due to weakened bones brought on by osteoporosis are the underlying problems. These wedge fractures collapse the front of the spine bone, leaving the back of the bone unaffected and causing a wedge-shaped vertebra. Despite the severity of this condition, nerve or spinal cord damage is typically not a concern since the fracture affects mainly the front of the spine.
Fragility from osteoporosis can make even simple activities such as lifting or bending a risk for experiencing a vertebral fracture. Even minor movements can lead to fractures if you have advanced osteoporosis. This silent danger can go unnoticed, although you may experience general back pain or muscle strain.
Treating osteoporosis-related kyphosis
Tackling the double trouble of osteoporosis and kyphosis takes a two-pronged approach. Fortunately, medications can slow osteoporosis progression and reduce your risk of fractures.
Meanwhile, Dr. McNulty can start physical therapy to improve your function. If those don’t give you the results you need, he may recommend surgery to reconstruct structural issues in your spine. He will thoroughly evaluate your bone health and may use alternative medications to strengthen your spine before surgery to improve our chance for success.
His surgical techniques vary depending on the location of the fracture and the severity of your condition. Spinal fusion using screws, rods, and cables can significantly restabilize and align your spine.
Dr. McNulty is a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon with several awards and nationwide renown — if you suspect osteoporosis and/or kyphosis, he’s the expert you want on your team. Schedule a consultation at McNulty Spine in Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada, and get to the bottom of your hunched back and pain.