Osteoporosis is a disease that affects more than eight million women and two million men. It is characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue which can lead to fragile bones and increased risk in fractures of the spine, hip and wrist. More than 700,000 vertebral fractures every year are caused by osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is some times called the "silent disease" because bone loss has no symptoms, and the disease usually remains painless until a bone breaks. Although the disease can affect any bone, spinal or vertebral compression fractures can have serious consequences including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity, a curving of the shoulders and back, and a thickening waistline. Women in particular reach their maximum bone mass at about the age of 20. After that, they will gradually lose bone mass. In the 5-7 years immediately following menopause, women will lose up to 20% of their bone mass. When osteoporosis affects the spine, there is a gradual collapse of the vertebrae producing back pain, loss of overall height, and a stooped posture. The back pain at vertebral collapse may be severe at times.