What exactly is Osteoporosis? Exercise, Causes, Treatment & Risk Factor 

If you wonder where you have heard about the term osteoporosis in school it might have been for vitamin D deficiency. Let us learn more about this in a detailed manner.


Osteoporosis is an age dependent disorder with the loss of the normal bone density. Bones become delicate and are easily fractured. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can fracture with only a small fall / injury. Aged people are most prone because of hormonal changes with advancing age.

Severe Osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis can worsen without the right treatment. The risk to fracture increases as bones become more thinner and weaker. Symptoms include a fracture from a fall or from a strong sneeze/cough. Back/neck pain or loss of height can be caused by a compression fracture(a break in one of the vertebrae in neck/back) The bone is so weak that it breaks under the normal pressure in your spine. If a fracture from osteoporosis occurs, how long it takes to heal will depends on many factors. These include where the fracture is, how severe it is, as well as age and health history.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis:

Symptoms may not show for a long time and mostly it comes to light only after a bone fracture. Symptoms of osteoporosis are related to the location of the fractures. Fractures of the spine can cause severe ‘band like’ pain that radiates around from the back to the side of the body. Repeated spine fractures can cause chronic lower back pain, as well as curving of the spine, which gives the individual a hunched-back appearance. Some with osteoporosis develop stress fractures of the feet while walking. Hip fractures occur as a result of a fall. Hip fractures may take a very long time to heal because of poor bone quality.

Causes of Osteoporosis:

Bones are in a constant state of renewal & new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. After early 20s this process slows, and most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.

How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained in your youth. Peak bone mass is somewhat inherited and varies also by ethnic group. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.

Treatment of Osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis is treated with vitamin D and calcium supplements. They are said to be in bed rest to avoid making the condition worse. Dietary and lifestyle changes are suggested. The patients are advised to take calcium either via dietary means or via supplements in the form of tablets. Since body absorbs about 500 mg calcium at a given time, the calcium intake should be spread throughout the day. Exercise helps to protect persons from the risk of getting osteoporosis. However, it is important to do exercises for osteoporosis under the guidance of a professional physiotherapist.


Risk factors of Osteoporosis:

Factors increasing the chances of developing osteoporosis are age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions and treatments.
Risks which are not in our control, they are:  

  1. Sex – Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
  2. Age- The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
  3. Race- You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
  4. Family history- Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father who fractured a hip.
  5. Body frame size- Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they might have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
  6. Hormone levels- Osteoporosis is common in people who have too much or too little of certain hormones in their bodies. Examples are :
  • Sex hormones- lowered sex hormone levels tend to weaken bone. The reduction of estrogen levels in women at menopause is one of the main risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Men have a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age. Treatments for prostate cancer that reduce testosterone levels in men and treatments for breast cancer that reduce estrogen levels in women accelerate bone loss.
  • Thyroid problems- Too much thyroid hormone causes bone loss. This can occur if thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
  • Other glands- Osteoporosis has also been associated with overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands.

Dietary factors influencing osteoporosis :

People who have:

  1. Low calcium intake- A lifelong lack of calcium plays a role in the development of osteoporosis. This contributes to reduced bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
  2. Eating disorders- Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women.
  3. Gastrointestinal surgery- Surgery to reduce the size of stomach or to remove part of the intestine, limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients like calcium. These surgeries include those to help you lose weight and for other gastrointestinal disorders.

Diet for osteoporosis:

An apt diet for this condition is required to help strengthen bones. Certain nutrients are a must in your daily diet. The most important ones are calcium and vitamin D as body needs calcium to maintain strong bones, and it needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Other nutrients that promote bone health are protein, magnesium, vitamin K, and zinc. Talk to your doctor for a diet plan suitable for you. They can advise you on your diet, or refer you to a registered dietitian who can create a diet or meal plan for you.

Exercises for osteoporosis:

Exercise is key more importantly weight-bearing exercises.


1.Weight-bearing exercises are performed with either feet or arms fixed to the ground or another surface. Examples : climbing stairs,walking, jogging,skipping rope, skiing

2.resistance training, like:

  • leg presses
  • squats
  • pushups

3.weight training like working with:

  • resistance bands
  • dumbbells
  • resistance exercise machines

4.Swimming, cycling and exercising on machines such as elliptical trainers can provide a good cardiovascular workout, but they don’t improve bone health.

Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing and balance exercises. Strength training helps strengthen the muscles and bones in arms and upper spine. Balance exercises such as tai chi can reduce risk of falling especially as you get older. These exercises helps because they cause muscles to push and pull against your bones. This action says body to form new bone tissue, which strengthens one’s bone. In addition to its many positive effects on weight and heart health, exercise can also improve your balance and coordination, which can help you avoid falls.

Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Exercise will benefit bones, you’ll gain the most benefits if you start exercising regularly when you’re young and continue to exercise throughout your life.

When to see a doctor?

You should talk to your doctor about osteoporosis if you went through early menopause or took corticosteroids ( used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system) for several months at a time, or if either of your parents had hip fractures.

Some basic questions asked are:
1.Can you have injections for osteoporosis?
Yes, Denosumab is an osteoporosis medication prescribed to help strengthen bones and reduce risk of breaking a bone and is available as a six-monthly injection. This osteoporosis injection is an antibody that slows down the natural rate bones are broken down.

2.Osteoporosis vs osteoarthritis, which is worse?
Both conditions may be mild, moderate or severe but because of osteoporosis which has the high risk of bone fractures , some doctors consider it to be the “worse” disease.

3. Is osteoporosis visible on an X-ray?
X-rays alone cannot reveal whether a person has osteoporosis, but they can show minor fractures in the spine which might be caused by this. If your doctor notices they may recommend a bone density test to obtain additional information about your bone health. The above info is based on osteoporosis ICD10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision, Clinical Modification)is a system that doctors and other health care providers use to uniformly classify all diagnoses, symptoms, and procedures. It is published by the World Health Organization (WHO).


So to sum up, osteoporosis is caused by many reasons and the most prominent ones are due to genetic and age factors. Osteoporosis is treated with drugs/injection. This condition may not be found with just an X-ray alone and needs more tests to confirm. Proper diet and exercise along with regular check ups is required to cope with osteoporosis. Lets eat healthily making sure to keep in check on our calcium intake. Let us make aged people around us to be aware of this condition its symptoms, dietary and physical changes required.
We hope you learned more about osteoporosis, let us know what you think or what topics you want us to post later!

Thanks for reading!

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Subin Joshua
Author: Hi there, my name is Subin Joshua, and I am a Medical student. I grew up in a family of teachers and know that being a social worker is my calling. My passion for helping others has been evident in my involvement in helping the poor and needy for the last three years. Through those experiences, I have learned to interact with a diverse group of people, which has increased my ability to relate to others.