Push for increased osteoporosis awareness

·2-min read

Brisbane mother-of-two Kimberley Martin was just 31 when she was diagnosed with pregnancy-related osteoporosis.

Three months after giving birth to her second child she woke up one morning with excruciating back pain which was eventually linked to the bone disease after multiple medical visits.

"I became really confused because in my mind it was something that older people get. People my age don't get this," Ms Martin, now 40, told AAP.

Osteoporosis was the cause of 173,000 broken bones in Australia last year and experts say the number is increasing.

Peak advocacy body Healthy Bones Australia, formerly Osteoporosis Australia, wants people to be more aware of risk factors and the importance of maintaining healthy bones.

More than 4.74 million Australians over 50, approximately two-thirds of the demographic, are living with poor bone health.

"Concerningly, the prevalence of osteoporosis in Australia is on the rise," Medical Director at Healthy Bones Australia, Professor Peter Ebeling, said.

"Early diagnosis of osteoporosis is vital to reducing fracture rates and their subsequent impacts and costs.

"These osteoporotic fractures cost the Australian healthcare system more than $3 billion each year."

In 2022, it is estimated more than 183,000 fractures will be linked to osteoporosis, according to figures published in a report by Healthy Bones Australia.

Low calcium and vitamin D intake as well as smoking and high alcohol consumption can increase the risk of osteoporosis, and poor bone health can be hereditary.

It mostly affects an older demographic but younger people are not immune.

Ms Martin knew little about osteoporosis and had never heard it mentioned in relation to pregnancy.

An X-ray in the lead-up to her diagnosis revealed she had multiple crush fractures in her spine.

Two doctors initially attributed her discomfort to muscle pain associated with giving birth.

Ms Martin says an earlier diagnosis could have prevented much of the pain she lives with, and reduce the number and severity of fractures.

She has since set out on a mission to support others, creating a support group for women with pregnancy-related osteoporosis which has grown from five members to around 500.

"Even if one person sees my story, it means they can advocate for themselves better than what I could do," she said.

Healthy Bones Australia has set up a helpline and online self-assessment tool so people can assess their osteoporosis risk.