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The early stages of bone loss are usually not accompanied by symptoms, but some detectable signs to look out for include receding gums, weaker grip strength, and weak or brittle fingernails. Gums can recede due to bone loss in the jaw, low handgrip strength is linked to low bone mineral density and can also increase the risk of falls, and nail strength may serve as an indicator of bone health. Additional warning signs include having a condition known as osteopenia and having an immediate relative with osteoporosis. Sufferers of osteopenia have a below average bone density, while a family history of osteoporosis puts individuals at a heightened risk for developing the disease themselves.

Once the bones have been significantly weakened by osteoporosis, a range of signs and symptoms may appear. These include back or neck pain, loss of height over time, stooped posture or compression fracture, and bones that break more easily than expected, such as from a fall or a minor movement. Back pain usually occurs due to strain on the ligaments around the spine, strain on the small joints in the back called facet joints, and strain on the discs. These strains are typically due to a slumped over posture, which develops slowly over time.

As the bones start compressing down, sufferers may experience a noticeable loss of height and therefore appear to be shrinking. They may also find that their clothes do not fit as well as they did previously. When the bones compress and shrink subtly, the pain is less severe and sometimes nonexistent. However, when the bones compress and shrink rapidly, the sufferer feels a significant amount of pain and compression fractures may occur. Generally speaking, pain is not a symptom of osteoporosis unless fractures have occurred.

The most common injuries in sufferers of osteoporosis include broken wrists, broken hips, and spinal or vertebrae fractures. Wrist fractures may occur as the result of a fall, leading to immobility of the outstretched hand. Hip fractures are especially common in individuals above the age of 75, requiring hospitalization and surgery. Spinal or vertebral fractures can be painful and may lead to distortion such as kyphosis, the development of a stooped posture. The likelihood of experiencing osteoporotic fractures increases with age in both men and women, though women are at a greater risk than men. Fractures from osteoporosis heal at different rates, depending on where the fracture is located, how severe the fracture is, as well as the sufferer’s age and health history.

Once signs and symptoms of osteoporosis have surfaced, sufferers should seek treatment to avoid more serious bone fractures, especially in the hip and spine. Severe discomfort in any of the common locations for osteoporotic fractures could indicate an unidentified or unexpected fracture. Treatment for osteoporosis typically involves reducing pain, preventing fractures, slowing the development of the disease, maintaining healthy bone mineral density as well as bone mass, and maximizing the sufferer’s ability to continue with their daily life. In addition, preventive lifestyle measures, medications and supplements, as well as drug therapy can all help treat and prevent osteoporosis.