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Can You Break a Bone by Coughing?

  October 02, 2017

Submitted by Elizabeth Madlem, APN, The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center

Osteoporosis is a disease that thins and weakens the bones to the point that they become fragile and break easily. It is a serious public health concern — some would say it is reaching epidemic proportions — affecting about half of the population aged 65 and older. There are no symptoms of osteoporosis until a fracture occurs, and there is no cure.

While most broken bones are caused by falls, osteoporosis can weaken bones to the point that a break can occur from something as simple as coughing or bumping into a piece of furniture. As people get older, they are more likely to have osteoporosis and recovering from a broken bone becomes harder, often leading to loss of independence. Osteoporosis commonly causes the bones in the spine to break and begin to collapse. This type of fracture often leads to severe pain and immobility.

While osteoporosis cannot be cured, it can be treated. If you already have osteoporosis, there is a wide range of medications that may be used to stop or slow down the progression of the disease. In some cases, it is possible to improve bone density and even reverse the disorder to a certain extent.

Bisphosphonates are the most common medications used to treat osteoporosis. These work by reducing the activity of cells that cause bone loss so that bone density is maintained. Bisphosphonates include Boniva, Reclast, Fosamax, and Actonel.

Prolia is a newer medication shown to reduce the risk of fractures. Prolia is different than bisphosphonates and may be better for people who can’t take a bisphosphonate.

Forteo and Tymlos are medications that can actually rebuild bone. These are usually only prescribed for those patients who have extremely low bone density, who have already had a fracture, or who are at high risk for fracture. Patients may be prescribed Forteo to build new bone, then switch to Prolia to protect the new bone that was built.

Hormone replacement therapy
can help to minimize bone loss. Estrogen agonists/antagonists, also called a selective estrogen receptor modulator or SERM, are not estrogens, but they have estrogen-like effects on some tissues and estrogen-blocking effects on other tissues. There is some concern that hormone therapy may increase the risk for other health conditions, so these are not used very often for treating osteoporosis.

Vertebroplasty, balloon kyphoplasty, and vertebral augmentations are procedures that can provide quick pain relief and mobility recovery for those who have suffered a vertebral fracture. These techniques are able to stabilize the fracture and in some cases, restore lost vertebral body height.

The goal of any treatment is to strengthen bones to prevent new fractures. Only you and your health care provider can determine which medicine is right for you as there are many factors to consider. Some of these factors include a person’s age, sex, other medical conditions, the severity of their osteoporosis, possible side effects, and personal preference (pill, liquid, weekly, daily etc.).

Poor compliance is one of the most important treatment problems. Studies show that only 40 percent of patients take treatment for more than one year. At two years, only 20 percent of patients are still taking their medication. That is why a fracture liaison service, such as the Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center, can be instrumental in helping people deal with osteoporosis. The Clinic works with a patient’s primary care physician to make sure they're getting their bone health covered and to minimize the chance of a patient fracturing again.

Osteoporosis was once considered a normal part of aging, but we now know that is not true. In fact, the disease is almost completely preventable by not smoking, limiting alcohol, eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and engaging in regular exercise that includes some weight-bearing activity.

For more information on osteoporosis, you may contact The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center, 309-662-4321. They have a new location at 2406 East Empire St. in Bloomington, next to Orthopedic & Sports Enhancement Center. Elizabeth Madlem is a certified bone health consultant. The clinic provides screening, diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan for people who have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Back to Top

October 02, 2017
Categories:  Orthopedic Health


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