Osteoporosis is a sneaky condition that causes tiny cracks to crop up in your bones — sometimes without your realizing it. The good news is that there’s a way to address those fractures quickly, no scalpel required.
Here, our team at the West Texas Pain Institute, led by pain medicine specialist Dr. Raul Lopez, breaks down what’s breaking down your bones and shows you how kyphoplasty can fix it.
What is osteoporosis?
You may not realize it, but your body's solid, rigid bones are actually porous living tissues. Your body constantly breaks them down and replaces them to keep them strong and healthy. Osteoporosis occurs when that process fails, and your body can’t create new bone fast enough to keep up with the loss of old bone.
As a result, osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak and brittle. The effects can be so severe that a fall, bending over, or even coughing can cause a fracture.
If the word “fracture” conjures images of split bones protruding through the skin, don’t worry. Osteoporosis-related fractures are usually small cracks we call compression fractures that occur in your bones, and in the earliest stages, you may not even realize they’re there. No bone is completely safe from fracturing, but it happens most often in the hips, wrists, and spine.
A fracture in your spine can trigger an avalanche of debilitating symptoms, including back pain, posture problems, more frequent fractures, and loss of height.
You reach peak bone mass around age 30. From then on, you slowly lose bone mass, and your risk of osteoporosis increases. For that reason, your risk depends heavily on how much bone mass you accumulated in your younger days. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Family medical history
- Body frame size
- Hormone levels
- Dietary factors
- Long-term use of steroids and other medications
- Certain medical conditions
Some other lifestyle factors contribute to osteoporosis, such as a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use.
How can kyphoplasty help me?
When compression fractures develop in your spine, we turn to kyphoplasty, a procedure that quickly repairs spinal compression fractures and reinforces your spine. To begin, Dr. Lopez carefully guides a thin needle into your spine. We use a hollow biopsy needle that allows us to feed a balloon catheter through it.
With the catheter in your spine, we slowly inflate the balloon to restore your spine’s shape before filling your fractured bone with special bone cement.
As the cement hardens, your spine strengthens, and you feel less pain.
Kyphoplasty is minimally invasive, which means we don’t have to make an incision. Most of our patients are awake during treatment and require only a local anesthetic; other times, it may be necessary to use a gentle sedative to keep you comfortable and relaxed.
Kyphoplasty is an outpatient procedure, so you can go home afterward. You’ll need a friend or family member to drive you home and take a day or two off to rest and recover.
If we treat more than one area in your spine, Dr. Lopez may require you to stay in the hospital overnight to observe your progress.
Most of our patients get back to their regular routine in a few days, but you should wait at least 6-8 weeks before you start doing any strenuous exercise.
What else can I do about osteoporosis?
Kyphoplasty is one of the most effective ways to correct spinal compression fractures, but preventing future fractures is just as important. Fortunately, supporting your bone health is simple — and it all starts with your diet.
You can significantly reduce your risk for compression fractures by increasing your daily calcium and vitamin D intake.
Men and women between ages 18 and 50 need around 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day; that number goes up to 1,200 once you hit age 50. Similarly, you need approximately 600-800 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day. The best way to get these nutrients is through the foods you eat, but talk to us about supplements you can take to fortify your diet.
Exercise is another great way to build solid muscles and slow down bone mass loss. The best exercises for your bones are weight-bearing and balance exercises, especially those that strengthen the muscles around your bones.
Suspect your back pain is coming from a compression fracture? We’d love to talk with you and see if kyphoplasty is an option. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our El Paso, Texas, office today.