What is Osteoporosis?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease or when the quality or structure of bone changes. It becomes very breakable, which is the main reason for fractures in the hips, wrist, and most commonly in the spine.

Compression Fractures of the Spine

Effects on the spine begin when the vertebral segments become weak. The spine starts to lose the supportive structure it requires for proper alignment. It then beings to collapse causing severe pain, deformity, and loss of height.

The vertebral segments are square and when they become weak from osteoporosis, they tend to break on the front of the bone. This bone break is referred to as a compression fracture of the spine. After it breaks, the segment shape takes on more of a wedged structure.

Each new fracture causes more pain and disability to the spine. Claudia Salcedo, a physical therapist at San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital explained, “Instead of having a normal alignment with your spine, your spine is going to be leaning forward.”

Over the years, the posture alignment can become completely bent over. This alignment heightens pain levels and affects breathing. Then the lungs are not able to expand and contract properly. Other internal organs can be affected as well.

The biggest issue osteoporosis patients face is the effect on their center of gravity. With a bent alignment, they are more prone to falling forward leading to more fractures. Injuries from severe falls can result in even more disability.


This condition can be treatable and starts with addressing postural alignment, balance issues, and pain management. All of these areas are part of a thorough recovery program.

An osteoporosis program includes education and lifetime modification. “We work on helping our patients understand what is going on with their bone health,” Salcedo says. “This way, when they return home, they can confidentially carry out their daily routines.”

An important aspect of this program is an individualized exercise plan based on each patient’s abilities and condition. It is key to do the proper exercises. With osteoporosis, the wrong movements can be detrimental. Exercises that strengthen the core and back muscles are great for building a strong support system around the spinal cord.

Nutritional support is also crucial in osteoporosis recovery. This specific diet may include:

  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • An appropriate amount of calories for your age, height, and weight. This should be determined by your health care provider or doctor.
  • Foods and liquids that include calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Click here to see a chart from the NIH that shows the recommended calcium and vitamin D intake based on age.

Many of these core issues can be reversed with the proper recovery program and early intervention. In other cases, we can work to prevent conditions from getting worse.