Osteoporosis, a condition marked by low bone density and increased risk of fractures, commonly affects the spine. About 10 million people in the U.S. have weakened bones, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and most of these people are over the age of 50.
Women develop osteoporosis disproportionately; they account for about 80% of all cases.
Each year, about 1.5 million fractures are linked to osteoporosis. Up to 50% of all women and 25% of men over 50 can expect to fracture a bone because of osteoporosis, according to MedlinePlus.
Vertebral compression fractures rank as the most commonly reported type of fracture among osteoporosis patients, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). Around 750,000 people develop compression fractures annually.
Spinal compression fractures occur as the vertebrae in the spine collapse due to thin, weak bones.
The risk for a compression fracture rises with older patients. The AANS estimates that 40% of women aged 80 and older acquire the fractures. Once a person develops one compression fracture, his or her risk for another increases by five times. These vertebral fractures commonly occur in the lower portion of the mid-back, also known as the thoracic spine.
Although osteoporosis greatly increases the risk for compression factors, taking special precautions can reduce your risk.
Tips to avoid compression fractures include:
- Bend your knees before folding forward instead of falling from your waist.
- Incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your routine, including walking or jogging. These exercises help you maintain weight density all over, but also work your spine, according to the International Council on Active Aging.
- Practice balance exercises, such as sitting on an exercise ball. Improving your balance helps to decrease your risk of falls that can lead to compression fractures.
- Strengthen your core and back muscles. Exercises to try include a plank, where you support yourself on straight arms with the balls of your feet on the ground. Another exercise involves lying on your stomach, hands on your forehead, with towels under your hips for support if necessary. Lift your chest into the air before lowering back to the ground.
- Take adequate calcium and vitamin D. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,200 milligrams calcium daily for women older than 50 and up to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D.
How do you mitigate your risk of compression fractures?
Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr