After you break a bone, recovery is your first priority. But you might want to find out whether this broken bone is a sign of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis and Broken Bones
If you’re 65 years old or older and you broke a hip or a vertebra in your spine, there’s a good chance that your fracture (broken bone) is related to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease, or when the quality or structure of bone changes. This can lead to a decrease in bone strength that can increase the risk of fractures.
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease because you typically do not have symptoms, and you may not even know you have the disease until you break a bone. Osteoporosis is a major cause of fractures in women in postmenopause and in older men. Fractures can occur in any bone but happen most often in bones of the hip, vertebrae in the spine, and wrist.
If you’re age 65 or older and have a broken bone, your doctor will probably do some testing to find out whether you have osteoporosis. See Osteoporosis for more information on the tests used to diagnose osteoporosis.
Can I prevent more fractures?
For older adults, the risk of breaking another bone is highest in the year or two after you break the first bone. You can reduce the risk of another fracture, so it is important to take steps as soon as possible after a fracture to prevent another one.
One of the best ways to prevent another fracture is to avoid falling. Having one fall increases the risk of another. (For tips on how to reduce the risk of falling, see the section “How can I prevent falling?” at the end of this page.)
Can any medicines lower my risk of fractures?
Medicines can help prevent fractures in older adults with osteoporosis who have had a fracture. Your doctor might recommend an osteoporosis medicine for you. See Osteoporosis for information on the medicines used to treat osteoporosis.
Can changing my other medicines help prevent fractures?
In some cases, making changes to the medications you take for other diseases can also lower your risk of fractures. If you take a medicine with certain side effects, such as dizziness or confusion, your doctor might change the doses of these medicines. Or, your doctor might recommend other medications that don’t raise your risk of falling. Examples of medicines that can have these side effects include certain treatments for depression and other mood disorders, pain, or heart failure.
Can vitamin D and calcium lower my risk of falls and fractures?
Not getting enough vitamin D from food, drink, and supplements can weaken your muscles. Weak muscles increase the chance of falling. People with osteoporosis often have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Your doctor might advise you to take vitamin D supplements to lower your risk of falls by improving your strength, balance, and bone density.
Too little calcium in your diet can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Bones are partly made of calcium salts, and our bodies cannot make calcium. A good way to get enough calcium is to eat foods that have calcium. But if you don’t get enough calcium from food, calcium supplements might be helpful.
For more information, see Calcium and Vitamin D: Important for Bone Health.
Can exercise lower my risk of more fractures?
Your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist or another health care provider to get an exercise plan to help strengthen your bones and muscles, which can in turn help prevent more falls and fractures.
Your exercise plan might include a combination of weight-bearing exercise, resistance training, and balance exercises to increase your bone mineral density and reduce the risk of falls.
Weight-bearing exercises produce force on bones that makes them work harder. Examples of weight-bearing exercise include:
- Jogging or running.
- Tennis and other racket sports.
- Stair climbing.
Resistance training exercises add resistance to movements. This type of exercise makes muscles work harder and become stronger. For example, you might exercise using one of these:
- Weight machines.
- Free weights (such as dumbbells).
- Your own body weight.
Exercise that involves doing a second task at the same time can also help prevent more falls. An example is dancing to music.
Balance training improves your ability to resist forces inside and outside your body that could cause you to fall. Examples are:
- Walking on an unstable surface (e.g., a foam mat or wobble board).
- Walking backwards.
For more information, see Exercise for Your Bone Health.
Is exercise safe for me?
If you’ve broken a bone, you might be afraid of falling again. So you might feel that you need to avoid exercise. But avoiding exercise can you make you lose more bone and muscle.
Proper posture and learning the correct way to move can protect bones while you exercise. Other tips for preventing a fall while you exercise are:
- Wear shoes with soles that have strong traction.
- Don’t move or change direction quickly, especially if you are exercising on a hard or slippery surface.
- Keep a chair or other sturdy object nearby for support when you do exercises that challenge your balance.
- Use a cane, walker, or crutches while you exercise if you have balance problems.
How can I prevent falling?
Most falls happen in the home. Some simple home safety improvements can help prevent falls:
- Use nightlights around your home.
- Keep every room, especially the floors, free of clutter.
- Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes that have non-skid soles.
- Make sure that all of the carpets and area rugs in your home, including on stairs, have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor.
- Keep electrical cords and telephone lines out of places where you might walk.
- Be sure that all staircases have good lighting and that stairs have handrails on both sides.
- Install grab bars on bathroom walls next to tubs, showers, and toilets.
- If you are unstable on your feet, put a plastic chair that has a back and nonskid leg tips in the shower to give you support.
- Put a bathmat in the shower or tub.
- Keep a flashlight and extra batteries next to your bed.
If you are outside, during rain or snow or whenever you need help feeling steady as you walk, use a cane or walker. In the winter, wear boots with rubber soles to give your feet more traction.
What else can I do to lower my risk of another fracture?
Other ways to reduce your risk of another fracture are:
- Avoid using tobacco, and limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. Both tobacco and alcohol can weaken your bones.
- Have a doctor check your eyes at least once a year, and get new eyeglasses if your vision has changed.
- Check with your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of the medications and over-the-counter drugs you take. If these medications cause fatigue or confusion, they could increase your risk of falling.
This content was created by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) with contributions from: