Most people experience back pain at one time or another, but when you have osteoporosis, then back pain could be a sign of something more serious – a spinal compression fracture. The most common kind of compression fracture occurs when a bone in the front of the vertebra in your spine collapses, but the back of the bone remains intact. This is called a wedge fracture, because it results in a wedge-shaped possible not to be aware of the fracture when it happens. Symptoms usually include acute pain followed by chronic pain, as well as a limited spinal mobility and a loss of height. Because vertebral compression fractures due to osteoporosis or low bone mass affect an estimated 25% of all postmenopausal women in the United States, it's important to know how these fractures can be prevented. Take a look at some simple changes you can make that can help.

Quit Smoking

If you're a smoker, you're at increased risk of osteoporosis that can lead to spinal compression fractures. While the relationship between smoking and other diseases, like lung cancer and emphysema, may be more widely known, scientists have known for many years that there is a link between smoking and decreased bone density. Smoking also increases the risk of a fracture and interferes with healing after a fracture.

Science does not yet know whether it's the tobacco that causes the bone loss, or if the bone loss is caused by other factors common among smokers, like lower body weight and poor diet. However, one thing is clear: kicking the habit can help protect your bones and prevent a spinal compression fracture. Quitting smoking is no longer as difficult as it used to be. If you've tried before and failed, or if you're unsure of your ability to quit on your own, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation. There are prescription medications, support groups, and over the counter smoking cessation products that may be able to help.

Start Exercising

Fear of a fracture or break can lead you to avoid physical activity, but the truth is that exercising more may be just what you need to prevent a spinal compression fracture. This works for two reasons. One is that exercising can help increase your balance, coordination, and flexibility. That makes it less likely that you'll fall or injure yourself bending or lifting. However, a good exercise program also strengthens your muscles and bones, making a fracture less likely even in the event of a fall.

It's important to talk to your doctor if you may be suffering from osteoporosis and want to start a new exercise regimen. Everyone's needs are different, and only you and your doctor can decide exactly what kind of exercise program is safest and healthiest for you. However, exercises that are commonly recommended for people with low bone density include step aerobics, brisk walking, jumping rope, stair climbing, dancing, or tennis.

Increase Your Calcium Intake

You're probably aware that calcium is the mineral that's necessary for strong bones. However, you may not know how much of it you need in your diet. A lack of calcium leaves you more vulnerable to bone loss, which in turn puts you at a higher risk for a compression fracture. Women 50 and younger and men 70 and younger should be getting 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and women 51 and over and men 71 and over should be getting 1,200 mg daily. In order to absorb calcium properly, your body also needs vitamin D – without it, the calcium won't help. Women and men under 50 should be getting 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily, and women and men over 50 should be getting 800-1,000 IU daily.

It's always best to get your nutrients from food if possible. Dairy products contain calcium, as do certain green vegetables, and many cereals, breads, juices, and other products have calcium added to them. However, if you can't get enough calcium in your diet, you can also take calcium supplements. Check with your doctor to make sure that calcium supplements won't interact with other medications that you're taking.

There's no way to guarantee that you'll never experience a bone loss or a broken bone, but making these changes in your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of a painful spinal compression fracture. If you're concerned about bone loss, back pain, and the possibility of a spinal fracture, you can start taking control of your bone health with these steps.  For more information, make an appointment at a clinic like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.