Calcium is critically important for a variety of body functions, such as muscle contraction, nerve signaling, blood clotting and maintaining bone health. Most calcium comes from the foods you eat each day. But without knowing it, many people suffer from hypocalcemia — or calcium deficiency — a medical condition in which there is too little calcium in the blood.
A lack of calcium can lead to serious complications, especially when it comes to spinal health. But you can improve spine health by working with your doctor to increase the amount of calcium in your body. Your doctor can recommend specific treatments for this condition that are best suited to your personal needs.
People experience calcium deficiency for many reasons. In fact, the cause of hypocalcemia can be attributed to a large number of factors, such as:
- Certain medications, like some anti-seizure (anticonvulsant) medications
- Kidney (renal) disease
- Parathyroid gland problems (hypoparathyroidism)
- Septic shock
- Vitamin D deficiency
For many people, calcium deficiency doesn't cause any significant symptoms. For others, symptoms can range from mild tingling in the lips, fingers and feet to muscle aches and significant pain.
Calcium Deficiency and Your Spine
When your blood calcium level gets too low, you're more likely to experience problems like osteoporosis, which is a serious medical condition characterized by bone loss. If you have osteoporosis, your bones lose density and become brittle and weak.
Osteoporosis can affect any bone in your body. When the condition affects the bones in your spine — known as vertebrae — you are at higher risk for spinal fractures. Like any other broken bone, a spinal fracture is likely to cause significant pain, especially when you move, cough or sneeze.
But spinal fractures can lead to other complications. Breaks anywhere in your spine may lead to a loss of height or an increase in the curvature of your spine. This curving, also known as kyphosis, results in a stooped, or hunched, posture. As more bones in the spine break, the curve of the spine increases, causing pain and pinching the nerves along your spinal cord.
Dealing With Hypocalcemia
Talking with your doctor is the first step to help you improve spine health. If you have a calcium deficiency, it's important to narrow down the cause of the problem so an effective treatment plan can be made. In most cases, hypocalcemia can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, but your doctor may recommend further testing to determine the underlying cause of your condition.
After the source of your calcium deficiency is identified, a treatment plan can be created that will raise your blood calcium levels. Your treatment may be as simple as changing your diet to eat more calcium-rich foods. Your doctor may also recommend calcium supplements to help boost your body's calcium levels. However, it's important to work with your doctor to make sure you don't add too much calcium to your body. Too much calcium, or hypercalcemia, can have serious consequences of its own.
While calcium is important for the health of all the bones in your body, this essential mineral is especially important for maintaining spine health. Fortunately, calcium deficiency is easily treated in most people. If you're concerned about hypocalcemia and your spine, your doctor can help you determine if your calcium levels are too low.