What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. Currently, over three and a half million people in the UK are living with osteoporosis.

Bone is a living, active tissue that is constantly renewing itself. Throughout our lives, old bone tissue is broken down and replaced by new bone material. This happens very rapidly during childhood and adolescence, allowing bones to grow bigger and stronger. However, this process slows as we age, and after the age of around 40, bone starts to be broken down more quickly than it is replaced, which leads to a gradual reduction in bone density.

Our bones are covered with a hard shell called cortical or compact bone, whereas the inside is a mesh of softer bone, resembling a honey comb structure. The word osteoporosis means spongy (porous) bone and when bones are affected by this condition, the holes in the honeycomb structure become larger and the overall density lowers. This makes the bone more likely to fracture.

Osteoporosis develops slowly over several years and has no symptoms – it is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to fracture. The condition itself is not usually painful, it is the fractured bones that cause the pain. Broken bones in the spine not only cause height loss and a curved spine, they are also a cause of long-term pain.

The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are a broken wrist, a broken hip or broken vertebrae. However, breaks can also happen in other bones, such as in the arm, pelvis or ribs.

Poster showing health bone and osteoporosis bone
Gentle treatment of woman with osteoporosis

Who gets osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but women are four times more likely to develop it. This is because men’s bones are naturally denser, so age related bone loss has to be very severe to lead to osteoporosis. In the years after the menopause, bone loss in women speeds up because oestrogen is no longer being produced by the ovaries.

Other risk factors include:

  • taking high-dose steroid tablets for more than 3 months
  • some medical conditions, including inflammatory conditions, hormone-related conditions, or conditions such as coeliac and Crohn’s disease
  • taking certain medications
  • a family history of osteoporosis or parental hip fracture
  • a lack of oestrogen in the body – due to ovary removal or early menopause
  • an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia
  • having a low body mass index (BMI)
  • not exercising regularly
  • heavy drinking and smoking

What Steps Can I take to Help Prevent Osteoporosis?

  • Take regular exercise (including weight bearing and resistance exercise) as it is vital for keeping your bones strong and healthy, for maintaining muscle strength, and improving coordination
  • Eat a varied, balanced diet which is rich in calcium and vitamin D
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Give up smoking
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
Chiropractor explaining osteoporosis

Can I still see a chiropractor if I have osteoporosis?

Chiropractic cannot reverse or cure osteoporosis but may be able to help relieve some of the pain associated with the condition through gentle treatment methods. Chiropractors use a variety of different techniques that are aimed at maximising function, as well as improving posture and balance. Providing education and advice is also important, particularly in terms of the modifiable risk factors of osteoporosis, such as fall prevention, diet, lifestyle and exercise.

osteoporosis knee

Need advice? Why not get in touch to see if we can help.