MILLIONS of people with back pain could actually have broken bones in their spine, experts warn.
Osteoporosis affects around two million Brits, and every year around 300,000 suffer a broken bone as a result of their condition.
Now the Royal Osteoporosis Society said the condition runs in families, and added those over 50 with back pain should see a specialist.
The charity’s chief exec, Claire Severgnini said: “If one of your parents lost height as they got older, then it could be a sign of osteoporosis.
“This means you’ve got a greater chance of getting it as well.
“And that back pain you’ve complained about could actually be as a result of broken bones, especially if you’re over 50.”
Getting shorter as you age ISN’T normal
Ms Severgnini said people wrongly think shrinking in height is just a “natural part of growing older”.
And she said the charity is launching a new plan to find a cure for the crippling disease, which affects more than half the population.
“It is no longer acceptable to think of shrinking as just one of those things that happens as you get older,” Ms Severgnini added.
“We want to encourage everybody to start looking after their bones, no matter how old they are.
“Bone health is just as important as looking after your heart or mind, but far too many people don’t think about their bone health.
“Imagine losing five inches in height due to the bones in your spine breaking.
“Now think how that will affect your breathing and eating.”
Duchess of Cornwall’s mother died from disease
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, who is the charity’s president, said she has seen first hand the agony the disease causes.
“I have seen the pain and ignominy that the sufferers of osteoporosis endure, as both my mother and my grandmother died as a result of this devastating disease.
“My fervent hope for the future is that my children, and my grandchildren, understand the importance of looking after their bones throughout their lifetime to prevent osteoporosis.
“Finding a cure, through research, is vital and has to be the Royal Osteoporosis Society’s ultimate goal to stop future generations experiencing the agony of their forebears.”
Agonising condition affects 1 in 2 women
The condition causes bones to lose weight strength and break more easily.
It is estimated half of all women and one in five men are affected – old and young – leaving them in agony.
The condition doesn’t have any outward symptoms and the first sign is often a broken bone, typically in the wrist or hip and most commonly in the spine.
‘It feels like my spine is crumbling’
Sheila Knight, 79, from Gravesend in Kent has broken four bones in her spine and lost five inches in height.
“I was in so much pain, it was agony really,” she said.
“I feel as if my spine is crumbling. It alters my life completely.
“Because of the disease my bones have squashed down. I don’t like to make a fuss and I carry on as much as I can.
“My husband has been too frightened to hug me in case he breaks another bone.”
And because Shelia has osteoporosis, her daughter Judith Jewiss, 56, is at greater risk.
“It’s a very frightening disease to live with,” she added.
“I’ve got three daughters, so they’ve also got more chance of getting it.
“I don’t want them to suffer the way mum has suffered.”
MOST READ IN HEALTH
There are steps everyone can take to improve their bone health, the experts noted.
These include maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking or drinking too much alcohol and exercising regularly.
But there are also many risk factors you can’t change – your genes, your age, gender and ethnic background.
That’s why it’s important that up to the age of 30 you build your bone bank and start thinking about bone health, the Society said.
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