Around the globe, people are uniting on 20 October 2018 for World Osteoporosis Day. This annual campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal diseases. With the aim of putting bone health in the spotlight, this year’s World Osteoporosis Day wants everyone to spot the signs of a breaking spine.
Did you know that spine or vertebral fractures are the most common type of fragility fracture?
They occur in 30 to 50% of people over the age of 50.1 You can sustain a spinal fracture from a fall, or something as minor as a sudden movement, sneeze or even bending down to pick something up off the floor. Despite this, these types of fractures can be missed by healthcare providers – up to 70% can remain undiagnosed.2 It can be for the simple reason that sometimes spinal fractures aren’t painful, or people might think they have a ‘bad back’ and take medication without investigating further.
So, do you know how to spot the signs of a broken spine?1
- Warning Sign 1: Pain
Sudden or severe back pain in the mid or lower spine can be a sign you have a vertebral fracture. This is probably the easiest sign to notice! Spinal fractures occur most commonly near the waistline, or slightly above or below it. The pain can be present all the time, and it often feels worse when you move or change positions. Never assume that your back pain is due to arthritis or muscle strain – ask to be investigated for osteoporosis.
- Warning Sign 2: Height loss
Height loss of more than 3cm can be a sign of a broken spine. While it is normal to lose a little height as you age, too much height loss over a short period of time can mean that osteoporosis is causing bones to break in your spine. If you recognise this sign, make an appointment to see your GP and have a discussion about your concerns.
- Warning Sign 3: Kyphosis
Kyphosis is a word that most people wouldn’t know – in medical terms it means a stooped back or curvature of the spine. Kyphosis can occur as the result of multiple osteoporotic fractures in your spine. As your vertebrae collapse or fracture, your back begins to hunch forward and it is important to be aware that this process can happen quite gradually. If this rings a bell for you, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
The impact of a vertebral fracture can be serious and long-lasting, reducing your quality of life and limiting your independence. Outcomes can be anything from spinal deformity like kyphosis, severe back pain, difficulty in participating in daily activities, depression and more.2
So if you think you have one or more of the signs of a broken spine, go and see your doctor today.
- International Osteoporosis Foundation. Spot the signs of a broken spine (brochure). 2018. www.worldosteoporosisday.org/resources.
- International Osteoporosis Foundation and Osteoporosis Australia. Spot the signs of a broken spine (infographic). 2018. osteoporosis.org.au.
AU-09850. October 2018.