CHICAGO, Ill.—May 12, 2005

—Over three-fourths of patients failed to identify the most common first symptom of osteoporosis, according to a new poll by (

The poll of 603 back pain patients shows that only 22% correctly identified a fracture as the typical first symptom of osteoporosis. Twenty-eight percent chose “joint pain”, 18% chose “dowager’s hump”, and 12% thought “fatigue” was the first sign. A full 20% said they did not know.

Osteoporosis causes the bones to thin, and thinning bones can collapse and fracture. Unlike other conditions that can be treated before a serious complication develops, osteoporosis, termed a “silent disease”, usually goes unnoticed until a fracture occurs.

Spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis are quite common—about 750,000 people suffer from spinal fractures each year. One problem is that the symptoms from a compression fracture in the spine are often dismissed as general back pain from muscle strain or aging, and therefore not correctly diagnosed. “In fact, approximately two-thirds of vertebral fractures go undiagnosed and thus untreated. This poll indicates that, despite efforts to better educate the public about osteoporosis-related fractures, significant work remains to help patients and their doctors correctly recognize the symptoms and diagnose the patient’s fracture,” says Dr. Scott Boden, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of a new article published on about identifying and diagnosing spinal fractures.

Spinal fractures from osteoporosis usually occur from minor trauma that slightly jars or strains the back, such as lifting, bending, or experiencing a minor fall when missing a step. For people with very advanced osteoporosis, the fracture can even occur with extremely minor activity, such as sneezing or simply turning over in bed.

Left untreated, vertebral fractures can lead to continued pain, decreased physical function, spinal deformity (e.g. dowager’s hump), social isolation, and even increased mortality rates.

“A vertebral fracture should be suspected in any person over the age of 50 who experiences a sudden onset of back pain. The severe pain typically lasts about four to six weeks as the bone heals, then may become more of a chronic, achy, concentrated pain. Fractures should also be suspected in cases without back pain but where there is height loss, limited ability to twist and bend the back, and/or spinal deformity,” adds Dr. Boden. “It is paramount that both patients as well as doctors are knowledgeable about these signs.”

Further information on osteoporotic vertebral fractures, treatment options and related topics can be viewed at


Sylvia Marten
Phone: 847-607-8577

About provides in-depth information and resources for patients with back pain, neck pain, and full range of spinal disorders. Written and peer-reviewed by spine specialists, the site includes thousands of pages of original articles, animations and illustrations, clinical trial listings, a spine physician directory, and an active message board.

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