The difficulties and lifestyle costs after breaking bones, especially for the elderly as a result of thinning bones, is not inconsiderable or insignificant. Hip or joint fractures can place heavy and unexpected financial burdens on people who may already be strapped for cash in retirement. In addition, broken bones impinge seriously on lifestyle and independence.

There are disturbing statistics to prove the problem caused by undiagnosed osteoporosis or poor care of the disease. There is a personal burden that should be clearly explained to people who show beginnings of this disease, and those who are reluctant to undergo bone density tests.

  • Recent studies have shown that nearly all hip fractures have resulted in hospitalisation.
  • In addition, homes have had to be modified so that patients can return and attempt to look after themselves – both in recovery and in the following years.
  • Three-quarters of those comprised by hip, pelvis, or lower limb fractures were confined to the home, and had to walk with a walking aid of some nature, or could walk only short distances.
  • Hip fractures are a burden to both the individual and the community. In fact, after one year, many may not have regained pre-fracture mobility. Only 50% of patients regain the mobility and independence they enjoyed 12 months before the hip fracture occurred.
  • A significant percentage of women with upper-limb fractures did not venture outside their homes for at least 6 weeks.
  • Nearly half of all fracture cases needed help with personal care and housework during the first 6 weeks. After 6 months, some patients still required assistance with bathing and showering. After a year, more than half of the hip fracture cases remained restricted regarding housework, gardening, and transport.
  • A fracture, regardless of site, has a major impact – particularly on a woman’s lifestyle and well-being, and on rehabilitation therapy.
  • Most women were restricted in their activities of daily living and suffered loss of confidence and independence. But men may be equally compromised.
  • The numbers of hip fractures worldwide are projected to increase from 1.7 million in 1990 to 6.3 million in 2050 because of the aging of the population; therefore, the total cost of these fractures will also increase. Costs worldwide for this condition are running into the billions.
  • The costs and morbidity associated with other fractures, such as vertebral fractures, are less well defined. Because hip fractures are associated with the highest and most well-defined costs – morbidity and mortality of these fragility fractures must be devised in order to evaluate costs and benefits of interventions.

Prevention remains lifestyle awareness

Lifestyle changes you can make

  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of calcium-containing foods, such as dairy products and sufficient protein (to aid in fracture healing).
  • Undertake 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, every day.
  • Ensure moderate exposure to sunlight (but avoid sunburn) for enough Vitamin D.
  • Stop smoking and lower alcohol consumption.

Reduce risks of falls

  • Ensure medication does not cause dizziness (e.g bloodpressure medication
  • Have your eyesight checked
  • Wear sensible shoes
  • Eliminate small rugs and loose cables in your home
  • Keep your home well lit
  • Install handrails where necessary or useful

Pain management
Be aware that osteoporosis can cause a loss of height as a result of fractures in the spinal column. This means the spine is no longer able to support your body’s weight and it causes a hunched posture. This can be painful when it occurs, but it may also lead to long-term pain (chronic pain).

There are a number of different ways of managing pain, including: drug treatment; heat treatment, such as warm baths or hot packs; cold treatment, such as cold packs; relaxation techniques, such as simple exercises, massage or hypnosis.

It is possible to use more than one of these approaches at the same time – for example, using a drug treatment, heat pack and relaxation techniques. But the best solution is to work for prevention through awareness and acceptance that you may need to make some important changes in your life.

NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)

NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.

Find out more about our work at: