Header for Osteoporosis Digest

Symptoms Of Osteoporosis: Early Stages May Have Next To None

There are very few symptoms of osteoporosis during the early stages. This is why it is often referred to as the "silent disease."

Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because in the early stages people do not experience much pain. But once the bones are weakened, the symptoms of osteoporosis include:

  • Dull pain in the bones or muscles, particularly in the lower back or neck
  • Severe back pain if the spine is fractured or collapsed
  • Loss of height due to spinal compression fractures, with an accompanying stooped posture
  • Fracture of the vertebrae, wrists, hips or other bones

Later in the course of the disease, sharp pains may arrive suddenly and increase with activity that puts weight on the affected area. The pain generally begins to subside in one week but may linger for three months or longer.

Fractures of the spine (vertebra) can cause severe band-like pain that radiates from the back to the side of the body.

dowager hump and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis sufferer with dowager hump

Over the years, repeated spine fractures can cause chronic lower back pain as well as loss of height or curving of the spine, which give the individual a hunched-back appearance of the upper back, often called a dowager hump.

A fracture that occurs during the course of normal activity is called a minimal trauma fracture or stress fracture. Some people with osteoporosis develop stress fractures of the feet while walking or stepping off a curb.

Hip stress fractures typically occur as a result of a fall but with osteoporosis can occur as a result of trivial accidents. Hip fractures may also be difficult to heal after surgical repair because of poor bone quality.

To assess the strength of your bones, your doctor will send you for a bone density scan, also known as a DXA test.

Osteoporosis is defined by standard deviations below the mean bone mineral density (BMD) of a young adult female.

  • Osteopenia: T-score between -1 and -2.5
  • Osteoporosis: T-score of -2.5 or lower

Hopefully, your doctor will also order a vitamin D blood test to see if you have enough vitamin D to absorb calcium properly.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health and yet research shows that over 70% of people in the United States and Canada are deficient in vitamin D for at least part of the year.