Osteoporosis

10.3%

of U.S. adults have osteoporosis, that’s 10.2 million people.

200M

Globally, more than 200M women suffer from osteoporosis.

1-10

women over the age of 60 have osteoporosis.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a chronic condition that is characterized by bone loss and weakening, making bones more likely to break or fracture.

Bones constantly change throughout your life. When you are younger, you tend to have more bone density, which means you have more minerals, and strength, in your bones. Certain bone cells dissolve when you are young, but they generally grow back in abundance. When you grow older or other factors, such as low calcium levels, arise in your body you may have less bone density, or weaker bones.

This can lead to osteoporosis.

Who is affected?

Anyone can be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is generally diagnosed after the age of 50, and women are more likely than men to have the condition. [1] But men tend to have worse outcomes after fractures that result from osteoporosis. [2]

 

Numerous factors can make you more at risk of osteoporosis, including family history, hormone levels, dietary factors, and other medical conditions. [1]

What happens in your body?

Common symptoms of osteoporosis include: [1]

  • Back pain
  • Stooped posture
  • Loss of height over time
  • Bone fractures or broken bones

In early stages of osteoporosis, there are generally no noticeable symptoms. But as the condition progresses, you may experience the above symptoms. 

To prevent osteoporosis, you should make sure you are getting the proper nutrients and exercising regularly.

How do I know if I have osteoporosis?

It is important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen. The best way to do this is by visiting your doctor and, if possible, getting a referral to a specialized care provider. Some doctors that specifically treat osteoporosis are internists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and geriatricians.

Some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through a physical examination, medical history assessment, or bone density test.

How is it treated?

There is no known cure for osteoporosis, but integrative interventions have shown to reduce pain and discomfort and improve quality of life by slowing the condition’s progression and easing the severity of symptoms. [3]

Integrative interventions offer a holistic approach to treatment. Instead of just conventional medicine, integrative treatments combine conventional medicine with nutritional tools, mind-body medicine, and manual medicine for a holistic approach to treating osteoporosis. 

For those new to integrative medicine, learn more here

Conventional Medicine

Many people with osteoporosis find that certain medications work for them and others do not. So, in order to find an effective conventional treatment, people with osteoporosis often work with their doctors to determine which medication works best with their body and needs. 

With the right medication, it is possible to manage symptoms and prevent the rapid worsening of the condition. Before starting to take any medication, be sure to ask your doctor about possible side effects. And if you notice any of the side effects once you start your treatment, let your doctor know as soon as possible.

Examples of conventional treatments:

  • Bisphosphonates can treat osteoporosis by preventing the loss of bone density. [1]

  • Monoclonal antibody medications (such as denosumab) can prevent bone weakening and reduce your risk of fractures. [1]

  • Hormone-related therapy (such as estrogen) can strengthen bones and reduce your risk of fractures. [1]

  • Bone-building medications (such as teriparatide) can stimulate new bone growth. [1]

Mind-Body Medicine

Research shows that gentle, low-intensity mind-body treatments can help osteoporosis patients with mobility, mood, decreased pain, and more. There are a wide variety of mind-body treatments for osteoporosis, ranging from deep breathing to aqua-therapy.

When living with chronic pain, engaging in regular movement and exercise may feel difficult and unnecessary. But doing so can actually improve your symptoms. 

Before starting a physical exercise regimen, consult with your doctor about what might be the best activities for you and your body.

Examples of mind-body medicine:

  • Tai chi, a mind-body exercise that originated from China, incorporates slow, gentle movements with breathing exercises. A study found that long term tai chi practice may be effective in mitigating pain from osteoarthritis.

  • Yoga comes in many different styles, often engaging both the body and the mind through controlled breathing and stretching. A study found that yoga appeared to raise bone mineral density in the spine and femur.

  • Aquatic exercises such as swimming and water aerobics strengthen your core. A study conducted by researchers in Australia found that water-based exercises may have benefits for improving bone health.

  • Weight management and healthy nutritional intake are key in reducing health risks. A study from the National Institute of Health found that weight management from diet and exercise are beneficial for alleviating pain.

  • Relaxation therapies like deep breathing techniques, meditation, and biofeedback can help patients ease anxiety and better manage chronic pain. A study demonstrated that mindfulness programs produced significant improvements in anxiety, depression, cognitive psychosocial abilities, and overall functioning.

Manual Medicine

Manual treatments are administered by certified clinicians, using physical pressure and stimulation on the body to reduce osteoporosis symptoms. Treatments can vary in intensity and incorporate other elements such as heat and aromatherapy to enhance relief. 

Examples of manual medicine:

  • A widely-adopted Chinese treatment administered by certified acupuncturists who insert very thin needles at strategic points on the body to support overall wellness. A study found that acupuncture can help enhance mineral density for individuals with osteoporosis. 

  • Licensed massage therapists use different techniques, like shiatsu, hot stone, and Swedish massage, to provide temporary pain relief. A Mayo Clinic study concluded that massage therapy is particularly helpful for muscle pain, and that it can also help reduce anxiety.            

  • Physical therapy can help with physical strengthening, mobility, and overall functionality. A study conducted by researchers in Germany found that physical therapy produces high quality of life for osteoporosis patients.

  • Osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT, is a form of manual therapy used by osteopathic physicians (DOs). A study from the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that osteopathic manipulation can be beneficial for preserving bone strength and reducing stress that may release fractures. 

Nutritional Tools

Nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall health, and is a tool you can use to combat joint damage, reduce inflammation, and manage other osteoporosis symptoms. 

Just like with conventional, mind-body, and manual medicines, there is not one ideal treatment for every osteoporosis patient. When selecting nutritional tools to treat your condition, it is best to consult with your doctor or work with a dietitian, naturopath, or nutritionist to find out the best diet for you. 

Examples of nutritional tools:

  • Anti-inflammatory diets

    • Anti-inflammatory diets include nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants and intend to reduce inflammation in the body. A popular anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean diet which has been shown to reduce signs of inflammation.

  • Plant-based diets

    • Vegetarian and vegan diets have shown to promote gut health, which may have an anti-inflammatory impact. A study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine demonstrated that plant based diets improve joint pain, tenderness, and swelling.

  • Elimination diet

    • While some foods can help reduce symptoms, other foods may trigger them. An elimination diet, which is an eating plan that eliminates certain foods or food groups believed to be causing negative bodily reactions, can help you figure out which foods are triggering those symptoms and bring you closer to your ideal diet.

  • Fish

    • Research suggests that eating fish may reduce joint inflammation for those with rheumatoid arthritis. This may help with symptoms of lupus.

  • Fruits and vegetables

    • Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, which support your immune system and may fight inflammation.

  • Nuts

    • Nuts are rich in healthy fat, protein, and fiber, and help fight inflammation.

  • Beans

    • Beans (like red, pinto, navy, and black beans) are rich in fiber and protein, and are full of both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Olive oil

    • This heart-healthy ingredient contains healthy fat, antioxidants, and oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound. 

  • Onions

    • These simple, flavor-rich vegetables are packed with antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and help control cholesterol levels.

  • Fiber

    • Fiber is found in foods like beans, whole grain breads, and fresh vegetables. It makes you feel fuller for longer and boosts digestive health. It also may help reduce inflammation.

  • Fish oils

    • Fish oils may reduce inflammation. A systematic review found that the consumption of dietary fish oil as part of the diet can improve health status among osteoporosis patients.

  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)

    • Gamma linolenic acid is mostly found in plant seed oils like borage seed, evening primrose, and blackcurrant seed oil.     

  • Turmeric

    • Turmeric is a spice from the turmeric plant that has anti-inflammatory properties. A study indicated that turmeric can be used as a source for alleviating chronic pain.

  • Folic acid

    • Folic and folinic acid supplements have been shown to improve liver function and ease gastrointestinal intolerance (the digestive system’s difficulty processing certain foods, which can lead stomach pain and bloating). 

  • Vitamin D

    • Vitamin D supplements are good for bone health, and they can also help keep the immune system functioning properly. A review on research exploring the benefit of vitamin D on chronic pain found that vitamin D supplementation was able to improve pain levels for osteoporosis patients.

  • Antioxidants

    • Antioxidants can help prevent cell damage. A study conducted by researchers in Italy found that antioxidants can be beneficial for bone growth and strength.

  • Probiotics

    • Studies show that probiotic supplements may help improve gut health and even lead to lower levels of inflammation.

  • Pomegranate

    •  A study by researchers in France demonstrated that pomegranate peel extract significantly prevented the decrease in bone mineral density for osteoporosis patients.

  • Green tea extract

    • A study found that ingestion of green tea may be beneficial in decreasing bone loss and risk of osteoporotic fractures.

  • [1] Osteoporosis. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351968. Published June 19, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2020. 
  • [2] Cawthon PM. Gender differences in osteoporosis and fractures. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2011;469(7):1900-1905. doi:10.1007/s11999-011-1780-7 
  • [3] Moreira LD, Oliveira ML, Lirani-Galvão AP, Marin-Mio RV, Santos RN, Lazaretti-Castro M. Physical exercise and osteoporosis: effects of different types of exercises on bone and physical function of postmenopausal women. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2014;58(5):514-522. doi:10.1590/0004-2730000003374 
  • [4] Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis By the Numbers. 2019; v3; 4100.17.10445 
  • [5] Wright, N. C., Looker, A. C., Saag, K. G., Curtis, J. R., Delzell, E. S., Randall, S., & Dawson-Hughes, B. (2014). The recent prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States based on bone mineral density at the femoral neck or lumbar spine. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 29(11), 2520–2526. https://doi.org/10.1002/jbmr.2269 
The information on this page is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.