What fractures are common in osteoporotic bones

Osteoporosis is a metabolic disease that has a negative impact on the stability of the bone. Translated, their designation means "porous bone", in general it means "bone loss".

But what is the cause of the occurrence of this disease and what happens in the body of the affected patient? One thing is certain: our bones are not a dead, unchangeable construct. They are subject to biology and are constantly being rebuilt.

If this complicated interplay is disturbed, an increased breakdown of bone substance can occur. So the bone loses material and becomes more prone to breakage.

Common illness

In Germany, more than six million people suffer from osteoporosis. However, it is difficult to say exactly because the disease often goes undetected. Overall, women are more likely to fall ill than men, but they are not spared it either.

Women after the menopause are particularly at risk because a low level of estrogen has a negative effect on bone metabolism. Osteoporosis doesn't hurt, but it can lead to fractures, which are often difficult to treat in old age.

Once the bone has broken down, it can only be rebuilt to a limited extent. It is therefore particularly important to diagnose osteoporosis as early as possible - and then to treat it quickly and correctly.

How do you recognize osteoporosis?

  • Broken bones after minor falls and accidents: These "low-energy" bone fractures, without any real accident, are a clear indication that the stability of the bones is no longer sufficient to withstand everyday stress.
  • Decrease in height by more than four centimeters: It is quite normal to shrink with age. However, if the loss of height exceeds four centimeters, undetected osteoporotic vertebral fractures can be the cause. The tricky thing about it: Only a third of all vertebral body fractures as a result of osteoporosis are diagnosed, because they often cause hardly any symptoms.
  • Fractures: The "typical" symptom of osteoporosis is a fracture of the femoral neck. Hip fractures occur around 150,000 times in Germany and can have far-reaching consequences for the affected patient. Fractures of the forearm, humerus and pelvis are also common fractures in osteoporosis.
  • Combination of several risk factors: With increasing age, the risk of developing osteoporosis increases. The umbrella organization for osteology recommends an osteoporosis check-up for all women aged 70 and over and men aged 80 and over. If several risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle, underweight, nicotine consumption, taking cortisone medication or (in women) premature menopause come together, you should be examined earlier.

This is how osteoporosis is diagnosed

In order to check whether osteoporosis is actually present, the doctor first gets an idea of ​​the patient's history. For example, he asks about broken bones, restricted mobility, back pain, diet and physical activity. Finally, bone density should be measured using imaging techniques. All of these procedures are summarized under the term osteodensitometry.

The "golden standard" of osteoporosis diagnosis is the so-called DXA or DEXA method. This is a low-dose X-ray procedure that provides very reliable results on bone density.

For the patient, the measurement does not differ from a normal X-ray examination carried out on the hip or lumbar spine. It is painless and requires a low dose of radiation. This is similar to the natural radiation exposure that a person is exposed to in everyday life over the course of a day.

X-rays penetrate the tissue during the examination. The denser the bone structure, the more radiation is "swallowed". A computer then calculates the bone density value from the radiation deviations.

What can you do as an osteoporosis patient?

By changing eating habits and lifestyle, the course of osteoporosis and symptoms can be positively influenced.

A “bone-healthy diet” is also important. The following applies here: calcium is the most important bone building block. In order to be adequately supplied with the mineral, it is advisable to use dairy products, green vegetables and mineral water.

What you should keep in mind, however: There are some foods that have a negative effect on the calcium balance in the body, for example cola or sausage. In order for the body to be able to absorb calcium through the intestines, it needs vitamin D. It is not easy to obtain it through diet, because only very few foods, for example fatty fish, eggs or butter, provide the vitamin.

However, under the influence of sunlight, the body can produce a large part of its daily requirements in the skin itself. Current osteoporosis guidelines therefore recommend daily exposure to sunlight for at least 30 minutes.

Strengthen muscles and bones

Studies show that persistently low stress on the bone apparatus, for example when resting in bed, leads to a loss of bone mass and a reduction in bone strength. In contrast, an increased load is associated with an increase in bone mass and an increase in strength.

Sports that involve weight loading, changes of direction, and jumps are most likely to contribute to increasing bone density. However, since these types of sport are paired with an increased risk of injury in the presence of osteoporosis, patients with proven low bone density should prefer sports such as walking or strength training.

Studies have shown that if the bone density is low, the threshold for mechanical stimuli is also lowered. The bone then also reacts to gentler physical activity with an increase in mass.

Medical therapy

If the risk of a bone fracture is too high, active drug therapy should be initiated. This can stop bone loss or support bone building. Increasing the bone density reduces the risk of a broken bone.