Bone Density Link to Fractures

Bone Density Link to Fractures

Scope’s Statewide Specialist Services team has examined research relating to bone density and the increased risk of fracture for people with a disability. Figures show 77 percent of children with cerebral palsy have low bone density.

Osteoporosis is present in 51-56 percent of men and 55-82 percent of women with a developmental disability. The figures are significant given that just 14 percent of women in the general population are affected.

Low bone density is also common in people with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Cord Injury and Spina Bifida. Research tells us that a number of factors may contribute to loss of bone density for people with a physical disability.

Factors include poor nutrition, use of seizure medication or steroids, decreased  standing and walking, low muscle tone, immobilisation after surgery and vitamin D deficiency. In addition, use of a feeding tube has been noted as a potential contributor.

Some good news is that effective treatments for low bone density do exist. Research suggests that effective treatments to prevent low bone density and to restore bone density include weight bearing exercise, bone density medications, physiotherapy, standing, vibration, growth hormone therapy and calcium and vitamin D supplementation.

In addition to low bone density, stiff joints, poor balance leading to falls and violent seizures may also account for the frequent fractures observed in people with a physical disability.

It’s evident that people with a physical disability break bones more often than the general population. In fact, children with cerebral palsy break bones twice as often as children without a disability and around 30 percent of adults with CP have broken abone. 11.5 – 46 percent of children with Spina Bifida have broken a bone and in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy the incidence of fracture has been shown to be as high as 46 percent in one study.

However, it’s important to recognise some key ways to reduce the chance of breaking a bone. Always seek advice before resuming standing or walking after a period of immobility or before using a standing hoist for the first time.

Take care if you are transferring people or teaching others to transfer people via hoist, standing or lifting. Avoid slips or any other type of trauma and seek medical advice if pain is present after a fall. A physiotherapist can provide advice to ensure that activities such as standing, walking and transferring are safe and suitable for the individual.

If you would like more information or a copy of the literature review completed by Statewide Specialist Services at Scope contact Kelli Nicola-Richmond on mobile 0438093010 or email