Osteoporosis is sometimes called “the silent disease” and with good reason. Early in the disease there may be no symptoms. Many patients only begin to suspect something is wrong when dull bone or muscle pain develops in the low back or neck.
As time passes, sharp pain may develop suddenly and last for several months. As osteoporosis progressively robs bone density or core bone strength, the risk for fracture increases. The wrists, hips, and spine are common fracture sites.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, osteoporosis can predispose you to sudden and painful spinal compression fractures. Such fractures may result in an overall loss in height.
Those spinal compression fractures may also cause the upper spine to curve forward. This forward curve is called kyphosis. A very severe forward curve is called hyperkyphosis. In serious cases of spinal osteoporosis, the nervous system is affected and you may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness. If you have severe kyphosis, you may also experience difficulty walking and problems with balance, which means you are at increased risk of falling and breaking other bones, such as the hips.
If you are past menopause, undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or have chronic undiagnosed back pain, make an appointment to see your doctor. Early treatment is essential to preventing osteoporosis-related fractures. Osteoporosis is not just a woman’s disease. Men can develop this metabolic bone disease, too!