Common ailments

Osteoporosis

I am 67 years of age and recently I have noticed that I am leaning forwards without even meaning to and I have been experiencing some discomfort in my back. A few weeks ago I was also surprised to find I had broken my wrist after falling off a chair. Should my bones not be able to withstand a minor fall?

It sounds as though you could have the symptoms of osteoporosis. This is a condition that affects the bones as you get older, causing them to become weaker and more fragile and therefore more likely to break. From around the age of 35, bone density is gradually lost in the normal ageing process, but in some people it can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fractures. The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the spinal bones.

Stooping of the back is one of the visible signs of osteoporosis in older people. It happens when the bones in the spine are fractured, making it difficult to support the weight of the body. This is probably why you have also been experiencing discomfort in that area.  The fact that you also fractured your wrist after a small fall suggests that you may have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis itself doesn’t usually cause pain unless there are fractured bones.

I strongly advise that you visit your GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis. This will probably involve referring you for a bone mineral density scan to assess your risk of sustaining bone fractures.

Treatment for osteoporosis is based on treating and preventing fractures and using medication to strengthen your bones. In the meantime, you would benefit from maintaining good levels of calcium and vitamin D in your body through changes in your diet or by taking supplements.

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