How Bone Fractures Can Change Your Life

General

When you have osteoporosis, bone fractures are high on the list of concerns. The pain and discomfort can be bad enough, but the effects go far beyond the bone.

Fractures can affect your ability to live on your own. They can make it harder to enjoy your favorite hobbies and activities, and they can lead to other health problems as well.

The most common fractures for people who have osteoporosis are in the spine, hip, and wrist and forearm. They each have their own long-term effects, but they do have some things in common.

General Issues

No two fractures are exactly alike. The effects on your life depend on which bone you break and how serious it is. But some things you can expect include:

Pain. This is different for everyone, but the bigger issue is that it might not go away. That can have a ripple effect on your other bones, muscles, and joints as you change the way you do things to try to make it hurt less. Living with pain also can affect your quality of life, sleep, and mood, sometimes leading to depression.

Problems with movement. Spine and hip fractures in particular can make it hard for you to get around. They affect walking, bending, pushing, pulling — so many of the basics you take for granted. You might need to use something like a cane, a walker, or long-handled reachers.

And when you don’t move around much, you’re more likely to have problems like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and mental health conditions, such as anxiety.

Emotional issues. It can be tough when things that used to be simple take more time or energy because of an injury — or you can’t do them at all. It may also make it harder to get out of the house, see friends, and get back to your normal social life. All those can affect your relationships. Many people with fractures feel anger, anxiety, hopelessness, or a sense of lost dignity.

Spinal Fractures

When your vertebrae — the small bones of your spine — get thin and weak, it doesn’t take a fall to break them. They can just start to crumble. And you may not feel any pain when it happens.

Your vertebrae work together to support your body, so a fracture can keep you from bending, leaning, and twisting the way you do every day — as when you tie your shoes or take a shower.  And once you have a spinal fracture, you’re more likely to have another one.

If more than one vertebra starts to crumble, you may have a hunched-over posture that gets worse with time. That can cause severe pain and affect your lungs, intestines, and heart.

That’s why spinal fractures can lead to many other issues, including:

  • Constipation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Long-term back pain
  • Loss of height
  • Nerve damage that causes numbness, swelling, and pain
  • Pain in your belly
  • Problems breathing

Hip Fractures

These are among the main reasons older adults move into nursing homes. And those who can live on their own often need help walking.

As with spinal fractures, hip fractures affect the way you move and do things for yourself. And once you’ve fractured your hip, you’re more likely to do it again.

Since you may be in bed as you heal — and not very active — hip fractures can lead to:

  • Bedsores
  • Blood clots in your legs or lungs
  • Muscle loss
  • Pneumonia
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