Question:My 82-year old grandmother has osteoporosis in all her bones. Her spine is especially prone to fracture. She's in so much pain, all she wants to do is lie down and not move. Will rest help?
Answer:Bed rest is often the only thing that helps relieve chronic back pain. However, it's not a very good idea because of all the other effects of inactivity. Activity is needed to keep the blood circulating and to prevent more bone loss caused by inactivity.
There's also an increased risk of fracture, pressure sores, blood clots, and many other problems with inactivity.
There are ways to treat this problem, even for the aging adult. Nonnarcotic pain medications can help with the painful symptoms. Drugs to prevent further bone loss may be advised.
A surgical procedure called vertebroplasty is also very successful in reducing pain and stabilizing the spine. The surgeon inserts a long, thin needle into the bone and injects cement. Once the cement hardens, the bone is fixed in place and can start to heal.
If there is a concern that collapse of the spine and deformity might occur, then a kyphoplasty can be done. This is similar to the vertebroplasty but instead of just injecting the cement, a deflated balloon is inserted into the bone first. Then the balloon is inflated and cement injected. The kyphoplasty restores the height of the bone and reduces pain.
A visit with your grandmother's physician is advised. Controlling her pain will increase her function and quality of life.Paul A. Hulme, MSc, et al. Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty: A Systematic Review of 69 Clinical Studies. In Spine. August 1, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 17. Pp. 1983-2001.
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