Osteoporosis is sometimes called "the silent disease" because the decreased bone mass and fragile bones that characterize the condition may not be accompanied by any obvious symptoms. If you do feel pain, it is mostly likely the result of a bone fracture or break you were not even aware you had.

Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hips, wrist, and spine. Hip fractures usually result from a fall, and wrist fractures are often a result of trying to prevent a fall. But almost half of all osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spinal column), according to Harvard Medical School. Vertebrae fractures, or compression fractures, are not like fractures in other areas; they cause the spine to compress. Compression can lead to a condition known as kyphosis, an outward curving of the spine, or hunched posture.

Aspirin or ibuprofen is usually the first line of treatment for mild pain or discomfort. If the pain is severe, prescription painkillers may be prescribed. Short-term bed rest may also be recommended. In some cases, a back brace may reduce pain and help the spine heal. When movement becomes less difficult, patients are encouraged to walk or participate in mild exercise.

There are also more permanent treatments, and a bone-filling procedure known as percutaneous vertebroplasty (PVT), has had good results. With PVT, a physician injects synthetic "bone cement" directly into the damaged vertebra during what is usually an outpatient procedure, though an overnight stay is sometimes warranted. Once the fractured vertebra is reinforced, the patient feels little or no pain. A study in the European Journal of Radiology found that almost every PVT patient reported less pain following the procedure.

During a similar procedure, known as kyphoplasty, deflated balloons are inserted on both sides of the fractured vertebra and then inflated. The balloons raise the vertebra to its normal height and create a space for the bone cement, which is added once the balloons are deflated and removed. Kyphoplasty takes longer to perform than PVT and usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital.

Since even one bone fracture increases the risk of others, preventative treatment is important. Doctors usually prescribe osteoporosis medications that help reduce bone loss and, in some cases, rebuild bone. Hormone replacement therapy, which can help prevent bone loss, is recommended for some women. Some of these preventative medications also provide pain relief.

In addition to taking medication, there are several steps you can take to help manage pain:

  • Watch your posture. Sit up straight, and walk with your head high and shoulders back to reduce the load on your spine.
  • Lift with your legs. To lift something, bend at your knees, not at your waist. Keep your back straight and use your leg power to lift.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Regular check-ups are important if you have chronic pain, because it could signal another problem.



Cedars-Sinai. "Osteoporosis." Web. June 2012.

Harvard Medical School. "Treating Osteoporotic Fractures of the Spine." Harvard Health Publications/Harvard Women's Health Watch. Web. June 2012.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Neuroradiology Division. "Percutaneous Vertebroplasty." Web. 30 March 2013. http://neuroradiology.rad.jhmi.edu/percutaneous.html

Kobayashi K, Shimoyama K, Nakamura K, Murata K. "Percutaneous Vertebroplasty Immediately Relieves Pain of Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fractures and Prevents Prolonged Immobilization of Patients." European Journal of Radiology. 2005 (15):360-367. Web. 30 March 2013.