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Osteoporosis | Symptoms & Treatments

Pain Associated with Osteoporosis: Facts & Information

As we age, the production of new bone tissue slows down and our existing bones may become weak and brittle, leading to a condition called osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that half of all adults 50 and older have osteoporosis. The condition leads to nearly 2 million fractures annually, with more than 700,000 of these fractures occurring in the spine.

Although osteoporosis can affect men and women, it is more common in post-menopausal women. Both men and women who have slight body frames are also at greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who have undergone chemotherapy or who have certain auto-immune disorders may also be at higher risk. Smoking is another known risk factor for osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis is often characterized by stooped posture and loss of height over time. When pain is present, it may be the result of a fractured or collapsed brittle vertebra, something that can be triggered by a fall or even something as simple as a sneeze or cough. The pain from a spinal compression fracture may come on suddenly, radiate throughout the torso, pelvis, or legs, and lead to decreased physical ability.

Treatment For Pain Associated with Spinal Fractures

Treatment options are available to treat spine fractures resulting from osteoporosis. Vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty help stabilize the spinal fracture. Fractures that are not healed will demonstrate swelling on an MRI or increased activity on a bone scan. These fractures can be treated with bone cement placed into the fractured level, thereby stabilizing the fractured level, reducing the pain, and preventing further collapse.

Fractures that are healed will not show swelling on an MRI or increased activity on a bone scan. These fractures do not require vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty. However, the compression of the bone at the level of the fracture can decrease the mobility of the joints and can reduce the space for the nerves to exit the spine. Pain from the segment of the spine affected by the fracture can be felt in the spine, the torso, or the legs. Treatments for this type of pain may include epidural steroid injection, facet joint nerve block or radiofrequency ablation.

For both healed and non-healed fractures related to osteoporosis, treatments may include:

  • Oral medications to address chronic pain or during flare-ups
  • Bracing to reduce pain and increase function
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, aquatherapy, biofeedback or massage
  • Physical therapy to increase strength and flexibility

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