Fractures -- A Possible Warning Sign

Osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs. Women and men with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. But any fracture in an older person could be a warning sign that the bone is weaker than optimal.

Some people may be unaware that they have already experienced one or more spine fractures. Height loss of one inch or more may be the first sign that someone has experienced spine fractures due to osteoporosis. Multiple spine fractures can cause a curved spine, stooped posture, back pain, and back fatigue.

Women and men who have had a fracture are at high risk of experiencing another one. A fracture over the age of 50 or several fractures before that age may be a warning sign that a person has already developed osteoporosis. People over the age of 50 who have experienced a fracture should talk to their doctor about getting evaluated for osteoporosis.

Risk Factors for Fractures

The more likely you are to fall, the higher your risk for a fracture. And more severe falls increase your risk for fractures.

Factors that increase your risk of falling and of fracturing a bone include

  • decreased muscle strength
  • poor balance
  • impaired eyesight
  • impaired mental abilities
  • certain medications, such as tranquilizers and muscle relaxants
  • hazardous elements in your living environment, such as slippery throw rugs and icy sidewalks.

The angle at which you fall also affects your risk of fracture.

Hip Fractures

Although low bone mass (or low bone density) plays an important role in determining a person's risk of osteoporosis, it is only one of many risk factors for fractures. Various aspects of “bone geometry,” such as tallness, hip structure, and thighbone (femur) length, can also affect your chances of breaking a bone if you fall. Increasing age, too much weight loss, a history of fractures since age 50, having an existing spine fracture, and having a mother who fractured her hip all increase the risk of hip fracture regardless of a person's bone density. People with more risk factors have a higher chance of suffering a hip fracture.