Prolonged disuse of bones from immobilisation in bed may lead to an increased loss of calcium from the bones, and so they become thinner and more fragile.
Elderly women may sustain fractures of bones from even simple injuries. A common fracture in women is a break in the radius, the major bone of the forearm. A fracture of this bone, just above the wrist, is called a Colles’ fracture.
A fall may result in a fracture of the neck of the femur or thigh bone. This can occur in both elderly men and women, but is far commoner in women. Crush fractures of the vertebral bodies of the spine are not uncommon in elderly women.
These can follow from carrying heavy weights and one cause is from grandmothers lifting and carrying grandchildren.
Elderly women who carry heavy loads from the supermarket can also suffer a crush fracture of the vertebra, usually affecting the bones of the thoracic or chest spine. These fractures cause considerable pain, but require no specific treatment beyond rest.
The deformity from wedging of a crushed vertebra leads to the prominence of the upper back which has been called the “widow’s hump”.