Osteoporosis is a condition that causes a decrease in bone mass and mineral density. While osteoporosis itself is not typically painful, a person may experience pain due to potential complications, such as breaking a bone.

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that causes a person’s bone to change in strength and structure. This can affect the composition of bone and reduce the amount of important minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. This can make bones more fragile and increase the risk of experiencing a fracture.

While the condition does not typically have associations with pain, a person with osteoporosis may experience pain due to broken bones or other bone problems.

In this article, we will explore why someone may experience pain with osteoporosis and suggest treatment options to help relieve painful symptoms.

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While osteoporosis itself may not cause pain, it increases the risk of a fracture due to the structural changes that occur in the bone.

A common type of fracture that may occur is a spinal compression fracture. These fractures affect the bones of the spine, also known as the vertebrae.

Spinal compression fractures may occur due to falls or even from certain actions such as reaching, coughing, twisting, or even sneezing. A person with this type of fracture may experience:

  • narrow and flatter vertebrae
  • loss of height
  • a rounded back, a hump, or a bent-forward posture

Spinal compression fractures may cause back pain near the site of the broken bone, and a person may feel pain in the lower back. The pain may also be the result of bones pressing on nerves, which in turn, sends pain signals to the brain.

Osteoporosis also commonly affects the bones of the hips and wrists, and fractures in these bones can also cause pain. The pain someone experiences may be mild and may resolve in 46 weeks, but in some cases, it may be lifelong.

A person with osteoporosis may receive medication from their doctor to treat the pain. Some of these medications may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids.

A doctor may provide NSAIDs to treat mild, moderate, and chronic pain. These medications work by inhibiting an enzyme known as cyclooxygenase to reduce inflammation.

Opioids can treat moderate to severe osteoporosis pain, but a person should only take these drugs for short periods of time. They provide pain relief by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which block pain signals.

A person with osteoporosis experiencing pain may also benefit from physical relief methods. Some options may include:

  • Physical therapy: This may include regular exercise. Physical therapy helps ensure that a person keeps their bones strong and healthy and reduces the chances of future injuries.
  • Heat and cold treatment: Applying a heat or ice pack to painful areas of the body may help reduce the sensation of pain.
  • Brace or cast: These restrict the movement of the fractured bone and allow the fracture to heal. These are common options for wrist fractures.
  • Acupuncture: This technique involves inserting needles into the skin, which may help treat and relieve painful symptoms.
  • Massage: Studies show that certain massage techniques, such as soft tissue massage and Tuina, may help alleviate pain symptoms.

In addition to physical pain, a person with osteoporosis may experience psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. As such, they may also benefit from psychological treatment options, such as:

  • Guided imagery: This relaxation method involves imagining positive imagery and involving the senses of the body to increase feelings of well-being.
  • Biofeedback: This therapy technique improves symptom management in chronic conditions, such as chronic pain. The process involves electrical sensors interpreting information from a person’s body. This allows the individual to know what they can do to change the pain signals, such as relaxing certain parts of their body.
  • Talk therapy: Also known as psychotherapy, this involves a person talking with a mental health care professional. Instead of resolving pain itself, the approach targets improvements in physical, emotional, social, and occupational functioning.

Some types of fractures may require surgery to restore bone function and relieve pain. Some surgical options that a surgeon may perform for spinal fractures may include kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty.

Kyphoplasty is a type of procedure that involves inserting a needle into the damaged bone in the spine. The surgeon will then inflate a balloon in the fractured bone to restore its shape and height. They will then fill the space that the balloon creates with bone cement. The cement helps strengthen the bone and maintain its shape.

Vertebroplasty is a similar procedure to kyphoplasty. However, instead of using a balloon, the surgeon will directly inject cement into the vertebra.

Hip fractures may require surgical intervention, and these may include in-situ pinning and hip replacement.

In-situ pinning involves a surgeon placing pins or screws in the site of the fracture to hold the bone in place. A hip replacement procedure involves replacing the damaged bone with a prosthetic component. This procedure may be necessary where hip pain is affecting everyday activities such as walking or bending.

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that can result in painful symptoms, such as broken bones. Treatment options depend on the type of fracture someone is experiencing. To help a person manage pain, a doctor may consider a combination of pain medication, physical relief, psychological therapy, or surgery.