Osteoporotic fractures describe a break in the bone that occurs as a result of osteoporosis. This condition refers to a bone disease that leads to the loss of bone mass and bone mineral density, which makes bones more fragile.

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones. It reduces bone mineral density and mass, making bones more fragile, which may increase the risk of bone fractures. Evidence estimates that nearly 10 million people aged 50 years and over have osteoporosis in the United States.

This article explores causes, treatments, and prevention tips for osteoporotic fractures.

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An osteoporotic fracture is a break in a bone or multiple bones that occurs due to osteoporosis. These fractures occur due to external forces, such as an accident or injury, that surpass the bone’s load-bearing capacity.

Health professionals may also refer to an osteoporotic fracture as a fragility fracture or a low-energy trauma fracture.

As osteoporosis increases the fragility of bones, these fractures can occur in situations that would not normally result in a fracture, such as falls from a low height or changing positions. These injuries frequently occur in:

Health professionals typically consider hip fractures as the most serious of fractures. Some individuals may experience severe complications, and many may not regain their previous level of functioning.

Learn about stress fractures of the hip.

Some causes of osteoporotic fractures include:

  • Older age: According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 75% of osteoporotic fractures occur in people aged 65 years and over. With increasing age, the bone’s outer shell becomes thinner, which can cause the bone to weaken and fracture.
  • Hormonal changes: The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone are involved in remodeling and building bones. The estrogen level in females decreases rapidly at menopause, which can result in a higher risk for bone fractures.
  • Other conditions: Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypogonadism, and eating disorders may weaken bones and increase the risk of fragility fractures.

Additional risk factors for osteoporotic fractures include:

Learn how the FRAX scale identifies fracture risk due to osteoporosis.

Treatment for osteoporotic fractures depends on the fracture’s type, location, and severity. Nonsurgical treatment options may include:

  • Medication: This typically includes anti-osteoporosis drugs, such as bisphosphonates, parathyroid hormone, and estrogen agonists. A person may also receive pain medication for the fracture.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): This treatment mimics the actions of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. A doctor normally prescribes this to women experiencing menopause and consequent bone loss.
  • Closed reduction: This procedure involves manipulating the fractured bone fragments back into place. This procedure does not involve an incision. The person may require a cast for 4–6 weeks.
  • Post-fracture rehabilitation: A person may require post-fracture rehabilitation and physiotherapy. This may involve specific exercise programs to help regain the function of the broken bone.

Learn more about rehabilitation.

More serious fractures, such as fractures in the spine or hip, may require surgery. Surgical treatment options include:

  • Vertebroplasty: This is a minimally invasive procedure to treat vertebral compression fractures. In this procedure, a surgeon will insert a needle into the fractured vertebra and inject bone cement into it.
  • Kyphoplasty: Similar to vertebroplasty, this procedure also involves inserting a needle into the fractured vertebra. However, the surgeon inserts a balloon into the vertebra to create a larger cavity and restore the vertebra’s shape. The surgeon will then inject bone cement into the cavity.
  • In-situ pinning: This surgical technique involves placing screws or pins to hold the bone together and prevent displacement.
  • Hip replacement: A person may require a total hip replacement or partial hip replacement if the fracture is serious. In this procedure, a surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage and replaces it with prosthetic parts.

Learn about knee replacement surgery.

Tips to help to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures may include:

Lifestyle factors

A person may reduce their risk of osteoporotic fractures by:

Fall prevention

The risk of falls increases with age, and falls may lead to osteoporotic fractures. Reducing falls may lower the risk of fractures occurring. A person can reduce the risk of falls by:

  • keeping the home as clutter-free as possible, installing grab bars, and using extra lighting
  • performing strengthening exercises and other exercises that improve balance.
  • keeping glasses in good condition
  • wearing comfortable shoes to prevent slipping and provide better support

Learn how balance exercises can benefit older people.

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that results in a reduction of bone mineral density and bone mass. As such, this makes bones more fragile and increases the risk of bone fractures. Osteoporotic fractures commonly occur in the spine, wrists, and hip.

Treatment for these fractures may include medication, immobilization, or surgery. A person can try to reduce their risk of fractures by making lifestyle changes and implementing fall prevention measures.