New European survey reveals women with post-menopausal osteoporosis fear stoop and shrinking in height

Survey finds that height loss is feared by almost two thirds of respondents. In addition to concerns about the physical impact of a fracture, women worry about how they are perceived as a result of changes to their appearance caused by fracture.

According to a new European survey, women with post-menopausal osteoporosis are concerned about developing a stoop (commonly known as curvature of the spine or hyperkyphosis) and shrinking in height but accept that it is just part of getting old. The survey also found that almost three quarters (73%) of the women questioned would be very self-conscious if they developed a curved spine.

What many women don't realize is that these problems are often due to osteoporosis, a progressive disease that commonly leads to height loss , and often has serious consequences including spine deformity or stoop, if not effectively treated. [link IOF statistics about vertebral fractures[/link]

To help raise awareness of this condition, a new visual guide called “Stop the Stoop” was launched on June 11, 2008 in conjunction with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and Professor Dieter Felsenberg, a world-leading expert on osteoporosis. The visual guide aims to draw attention to the serious implications for women with post-menopausal osteoporosis who do not take action to manage their condition effectively.

One such serious outcome is that 30-50% of women will suffer a fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Some of these women could experience multiple vertebral (spinal) fractures, which can result in significant height loss, and eventually a stoop as their condition progresses. Although progression of a stoop and height loss can be slowed down, or even avoided, with effective osteoporosis treatments, many women are still not taking their medicine properly, or are stopping treatment completely, for example, due to unwanted side-effects, leading them to be at increased risk of postural complications.

Professor Dieter Felsenberg, Director, Center for Muscle and Bone Research, Charité – University Medicine Berlin, Free & Humboldt-University Berlin, comments: “Due to the silent nature of osteoporosis it can be difficult to tell if a treatment is working. Therefore it is essential that women with osteoporosis are aware of the important role that treatment plays from the beginning, and also over the longer-term, in preventing vertebral fractures and the devastating consequences these fractures can have.”

“The visual guide features a patient who is not taking appropriate treatment and has had eight vertebral fractures in a four year period. As a result, she may lose up to ten centimetres in height and may suffer severe chronic pain from the curvature of her spine. Unfortunately this is a reality for patients who do not actively manage their osteoporosis and the consequences can be potentially life-threatening in a relatively short period of time.”

Vertebral fractures are often “silent” and without any symptoms when they first occur, and can result from simple day-to-day activities, such as carrying heavy shopping bags or doing household chores. More than two-thirds of vertebral fractures are undetected with numerous repetitive fractures leading to severe disability and chronic pain.

The European survey of 622 women with post-menopausal osteoporosis found that height loss is feared by almost two thirds (64%) of respondents. In addition to the physical impact of a fracture, these women are concerned about how perceptions of them might change as a result of changes in their appearance caused by fracture. The survey found that a common perception of women with a curved spine is that they are ‘fragile’ and ‘vulnerable’, yet over one in five (21%) are unaware that not taking their treatment could result in the height loss and stoop they fear. Worryingly, 39% of women surveyed would not tell their doctor if they stopped taking their tablets, which could increase their risk of vertebral fracture. [link download=1379]View 'Stop the Stoop' survey summary[/link]

Daniel Navid, Chief Executive Officer at the IOF, comments: “Women need to be aware that height loss and stoop caused by fractures often can be avoided if proper measures are taken to maintain strong bones after diagnosis of osteoporosis. By staying on appropriate treatment, people with osteoporosis can continue to lead an independent and active life.”

The Stop the Stoop survey, conducted from April 29 to May 13, 2008 by Steel Magnolia, was sponsored by Roche & GSK. A total of 622 post-menopausal women who are diagnosed with osteoporosis were interviewed across six European countries: France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and UK.