Osteoporosis Overview

Peer Reviewed

Osteoporosis is caused by decreased bone mass resulting in fragile bones. Progressive osteoporosis may cause loss of height, stooped posture, a humpback (kyphotic curve), and severe pain. It commonly affects the thoracic and thoracolumbar regions of the spine and may cause debilitating pain. The structural deterioration of bone increases the risk for fracture in the hip, spine, and wrist.


The Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease National Resource Center report that "Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including 300,000 hip fractures and approximately 700,000 vertebral fractures, 250,000 wrist fractures, and more than 300,000 fractures at other sites."

Normally associated with aging, osteoporosis contributes to fractures in older people. Many adults reach peak bone mass by age 30 - thereafter, small amounts of bone are naturally lost. This gradual reduction in bone density increases the risk for fracture. Spinal fractures (wedge, compression, burst) often affect one or more of the vertebral bodies. In some cases, the patient is unaware they have osteoporosis until fracture occurs. In severe osteoporosis, simple movements like bending, twisting, walking, or reaching can cause vertebrae to collapse.

Updated on: 02/02/17
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Osteoporosis: Risks and Diagnostic Steps
Harry N. Herkowitz, MD
This article provides an overview of osteoporosis. It is a significant national health problem due in part to a lack of patient awareness. It is critical that patients understand what osteoporosis is and what their responsibility to their own body is. They should do impact exercise on a regular basis, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol. They should maintain a reasonable weight, begin taking calcium with vitamin D well before menopause begins, and get regular checkups especially if there is a history of osteoporosis in the family.
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Osteoporosis: Risks and Diagnostic Steps

Although osteoporosis cannot be cured, early diagnosis is important to halting disease progression.
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