How One Bone Fracture Puts You at Risk for Life-Threatening Fractures

hip fracture

May is National Osteoporosis Month.

I would like to talk about the importance of preventing fractures. Osteoporotic fractures are common, can be painful, and result in limiting a person’s activities. Our goal is to prevent a fracture before it happens. When you experience an osteopathic fracture, you significantly raise your risk for another fracture. Our Metabolic Bone Program is working closely with our Orthopedic Program on this vital issue. Watch for more information on this collaboration this summer.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is:

  • A hip fracture caused by falling from standing height; or,
  • A compression fracture found in the spine that is not from an injury.

This means that that a person’s bones are weak and their risk for having another fracture in the future is high.

What happens when people break bones?

When people break bones, they become more likely to need assistive devices. Think of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Additionally, after a hip fracture many people may need to leave their homes to stay or live in a residential facility.

Breaking bones when it is not a random accident is a sign of osteoporosis or brittle bone. If untreated, a person puts themselves at greater risk for a life-threatening, independence-threatening fracture.

How do you diagnose osteoporosis?

Often, we make a diagnosis of osteoporosis through a bone density test; however, this is not necessary for a diagnosis if someone has a fracture not caused by trauma. Your doctor may still want to perform a bone density test if you have not had one recently.

What do I do if I have had a fracture?

Unfortunately, many people are not treated after a hip fracture to prevent future fractures. It is very important that any person who has had a hip fracture talks to their  doctor to be treated to prevent future fractures. A person may also ask to be referred to a specialist in this field.

Osteoporosis is a serious condition and there are many safe and effective medications available to prevent future fractures. Taking in adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D along with performing regular, weight-bearing exercise and being careful not to fall are important aspects of bone health.

Jennifer Kelly, DO, is an endocrinologist and director of the Metabolic Bone Program at the UVM Medical Center.

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