Why do osteoporotic bones fracture?
Consider the possibility of a bridge collapsing during rush hour traffic. A number of questions will be raised as a result of the accident: Was the bridge improperly constructed? Was there additional weight on the bridge that it couldn’t support? Was it a result of poor design and excessive weight?
As you might expect, there may not be a single simple explanation for why the bridge collapsed. We can think of our bones in the same way – they can fracture or break for a variety of reasons.
Osteoporosis is characterised by fractures caused by minor trauma, such as a fall from standing height or less. Although low bone mineral density is a factor, it is not always the sole cause of fracture. Bone is, in fact, a very complex structure. Many factors influence the strength of our bones. The density of the bone is important, but the quality of the bone is also important to consider. The overall strength of the bone is determined by the size and shape of the bone, the amount of minerals and protein in the bone, and other more complex features of the bone.
Am I at risk of fracture?
Aside from bone density and bone strength, a variety of factors must be considered when determining your risk of fracture. Some factors can increase your chances of breaking a bone. These include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, being underweight, using glucocorticoids, having rheumatoid arthritis, having suffered from a previous fragility fracture, and having a family history of hip fracture.
Your doctor will be able to assess whether you are at risk of fracture and will recommend treatment based on which of the above factors apply to you.
Our quick fracture risk assessment test can help you find out if you are at risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
How can I prevent fractures?
You can reduce bone loss and your risk of fracture by changing your lifestyle and taking medication as prescribed by your doctor. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D, and that you exercise regularly. Furthermore, refrain from smoking and excessive drinking.
Aside from bone loss, injury is another cause of bone fractures. Falling is the cause of more than 90% of hip fractures. Many factors can increase a person’s risk of falling, including muscle weakness, poor balance, physical disability, chronic illnesses such as arthritis, decreased vision, and even depression. Heavy alcohol consumption, inappropriate footwear or clothing, and hazards in your home, such as slick surfaces and a lack of handrails, can all contribute to falls.
If you have osteoporosis, you should take precautions to avoid falling and injuring your bones. Some things you can do to avoid falling are as follows:
- exercise regularly, and focus especially on exercises that strengthen your muscles and improve your balance (e.g. Tai Chi)
- avoid excessive alcohol
- avoid high-heeled shoes and wear shoes with firm, non-slip soles
- have your vision checked regularly
- remove potential hazards at home (e.g. secure electrical cords and carpets to prevent tripping, install handrails and grab bars where appropriate)
- use walking aids such as a cane or walker, if needed
- avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills and other medication that can make you dizzy or unsteady