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Can Bone Density Loss Cause Pain?

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Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease. The increased risk of fracture and slow healing of bone associated with the condition are both symptoms that can significantly impact your short-term and long-term health. At the same time, if you have not recently broken a bone, you may not experience any symptoms directly related to bone density loss. Without a recent fracture, pain is only evident at a very advanced stage. In fact, a DEXA scan by a physician is often the only indication that you have osteoporosis at all. If you notice a dull pain or ache that seems to radiate from your bones, another culprit other than osteoporosis is more likely -- arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition in which inflammation develops within one or more joints, increasing in severity with age. Years of wear and tear grind away the cartilage inside joints that normally serves as a cushion between the bones, gradually resulting in painful bone-on-bone friction, stiffness, swelling, and immobility. Arthritis can develop in any of the major joints of the body but is especially common in weight bearing joints such as the knees, hips, feet, and spine. In this way, pain associated with arthritis can often be mistaken for osteoporosis, as this discomfort may seem like it is coming from the bones themselves.

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At the same time, arthritis and osteoporosis are not mutually exclusive. Chronic joint inflammation has been shown to increase risk for osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures, particularly in the bones immediately surrounding the affected joints. Individuals suffering with swollen, painful joints often hesitate to engage in the type of weight bearing physical activity that can help preserve bone density, resulting in a vicious cycle of inactivity. Finally, arthritis and osteoporosis share similar demographic risk factors, as they are both most likely to afflict females, Caucasians, and individuals over the age of 50.

For this reason, protecting yourself from painful joint inflammation and defending against bone density loss are goals that are firmly intertwined. Consider talking with your doctor about your options for safely reducing joint pain and improving mobility, allowing you to slowly incorporate weight-bearing exercise to keep your bones healthy and strong.


Jennifer recently retired from her career as a Certified Manual Physical Therapist to spend more time with her family. When she isn't writing about natural medicine, she enjoys practicing yoga, rock climbing, and running marathons.


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