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How Does Bone Density Influence Your Spine Health?

bone density and spine health

Each year, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures worldwide. Due to lower bone density, the disease affects an estimated 200 million women, many of which are also diagnosed with spine conditions. On the flip side, many patients first diagnosed with a spine condition are later found to also suffer from low bone density. The connection between the two is undeniable. But, to what extent does bone density influence your spine health?

Bone Density and Spine Health

Osteoporosis by itself does not cause pain and many people will not know they have it until after it has progressed to a point that has severely weakened the vertebrae.
In some cases, as the density of the spinal vertebrae decreases, they may lose their normal height.

When this loss occurs, the front part of the vertebrae may take on a more wedged type of configuration, causing forward-leaning posture and increased curvature of the spine (kyphosis) that will sometimes cause back pain.

Whether the posture is affected or not, the primary risk of osteoporosis is a spinal fracture. When this happens, there is often sudden onset of sharp pain at the fracture site. Mild trauma, such as light lifting or even a heavy sneeze may be enough to fracture the weakened vertebrae.

Bone Density Test

The only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs is a bone density test. It will indicate if you have normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. It can also help you and your doctor:

  • Predict your likelihood of breaking a bone in the future
  • Determine if your bone density is improving, worsening and remaining the same
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of osteoporosis medication
  • Identify osteoporosis after you have broken a bone

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a bone density test for the following  individuals:

  • Women age 65 or older
  • Men age 70 or older
  • Anyone who breaks a bone after age 50
  • Women of menopausal age with risk factors
  • Postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors
  • Men age 50-69 with risk factors

It may also be recommended if an X-ray of your spine shows a break or bone loss, you suffer back pain with a possible break in your spine, you have lost half an inch or more within 12 months or you’ve lost one-and-a-half inches in total from your original height.

If you are looking for how bone density affects spine health, you should start by analyzing the effect on the backbone. It is very much known that due to a lack of bone density, bone loss is more prone to happen. Due to bone loss, there are chances one

A bone density test of the spine is performed using a central dual-energy X-ray (DXA) machine. If the spine cannot be tested, a central DXA test can be performed on the radius bone in the forearm. When a central DXA test is not available, other peripheral screening tests can help identify those who may benefit from further bone density testings. These can measure bone density in other areas of the body such as the lower arm, wrist, finger or heel.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The reason why bone density testing is often performed on the spine and hip is that evidence of low bone density or osteoporosis in these areas are often indicative of overall bone health throughout the body.

The results of a bone density test are called your T-score, which measures your bone density in relation to that of a healthy 30-year-old adult.

bone density and spine health

Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis that has resulted in a spinal fracture or chronic back pain, call (503) 885-9391 to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Timothy Keenen. Spine conditions and injuries including those caused by osteoporosis can significantly impede daily living. Serving the greater Portland area, the team at Pacific Spine Specialists can help you return to doing what you love with the ones you love.

  • Oregon Medical Association
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • Scoliosis Research Society
  • North American Spine Society