Deep Bench: Preventing and managing osteoporosis, chronic back pain and bone fractures

(WZAW) -- According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the prevention and management of osteoporosis is among the leading health topics and areas of public health need for 2020.

In the United States alone, an estimated 5.3 million people aged 50 years and older already have developed and are living with osteoporosis. While men can still get it, osteoporosis is mainly a female-dominant disease. Half of all women ages 50 years and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

On Wednesday’s Deep Bench, Beth Battaglino, an RN and CEO of HealthyWomen joined NewsChannel 7 at 4, along with Dr. Orlando Ortiz, a radiologist for the North Bronx Healthcare Network.

Osteoporosis happens when the bones thin and weaken and become very fragile, which can lead to bone fracture.

“It’s also known as the silent disease, because it happens gradually,” Battalingo said.

Vertebral compression fractures are the most common fracture in people with osteoporosis, affecting about 750,000 annually, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. VCFs affect about one-quarter of postmenopausal women in the United States, and the risk of this condition increases with age. About 40% of women age 80 and older are affected.

Dr. Ortiz said that VCFs happen when the bony block or vertebral body in the spine collapses. That can lead to severe pain, deformity and height loss. These fractures happen more commonly in the middle portion of the spine.

“These fractures can be related to trivial events, such as sneezing,” he said.

One of the first signs of a VCF is height loss. Think about whether your adult children seem taller. Do you need to hem pants you've worn for years? Are you suddenly unable to reach a shelf? This means you may have experienced a VCF.

Spinal fractures among patients with osteoporosis are often under-diagnosed. One of the main reasons is as we age, basic aches and pains are a part of life, and a little back pain is common. But Battaglino said that it’s important to differentiate between normal back pain, that everyone experiences, and what’s not normal.

“Chronic back pain, or pain that’s lasting longer than a week and you realize you’re taking medication, and it’s not doing anything, and all of a sudden you’re adjusting your activities of daily living because of your back pain, that is not normal,” Battaglino explained.

The good news is, thanks to medical advances in recent years, patients have treatment options available that have been shown in clinical studies to provide pain relief and increase quality of life.

Dr. Ortiz said the two biggest preventative measures to take care of osteoporosis by getting enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet. The other is to make sure you’re exercising regularly.

Battaglino and Dr. Ortiz encouraged women to speak with their health care provider about any symptoms they may be experiencing and the treatment options available to them.

For more information, visit www.HealthyWomen.org