Osteoporosis and Arthritis: Frequently Asked Questions

Sep 21, 2021

Over 53 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, while approximately 52 million wrestle with some form of arthritis. The combination of chronic bone weakness and painful joint inflammation can lead to serious issues that limit sufferers’ quality of life, especially as they grow older and their conditions progress.

If you have low bone density as well as stiff, swollen joints, you may wonder how you can manage both problems at once to preserve your strength, durability, and flexibility. Use the answers to the following frequently asked questions as your springboard back into the world of better health, function, and comfort.

How Does Osteoporosis Differ From Osteoarthritis?

You might understandably confuse osteoporosis with a form of arthritis called osteoarthritis. Both terms refer to the bones, but osteoporosis refers to a lack of bone density, while osteoarthritis refers to pain and inflammation from worn bones and cartilage in joints.

In osteoporosis, the body absorbs old bones more rapidly than it replaces them, a disruption of the normal cycle of remodeling that keeps bone properly dense and strong. As bone density continues to decline, you may develop a stoop, suffer from back pain, and face an ever-increasing risk of fractures.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that lies between the bone ends in a joint grows thin and breaks down. This deterioration, along with a loss of lubrication inside the joint, eventually causes the bone ends to rub together painfully. It also produces changes in both the bones themselves and the connective tissues that mobilize them.

How Do Osteoporosis and Arthritis Influence Each Other?

Osteoporosis and arthritis may aggravate each other’s effects, risks, and complications. In the case of osteoarthritis, a loss of bone density from osteoporosis could influence the bone changes that typically accompany cartilage breakdown. A loss of mobility that makes you fall could mean serious trouble if you have osteoporosis.

Researchers also note that people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (also called inflammatory arthritis) seem to have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. They theorize that the same inflammation around the bones that causes joint pain also promotes osteoporosis and raises the risk of bone fractures.

How Do Doctors Treat Both Osteoporosis and Arthritis?

Osteoporosis and arthritis actually call for different treatment methods specific to each condition. For instance, if you suffer from osteoporosis, your doctor might recommend mineral supplements, hormone therapy, and drugs that reduce bone absorption. Arthritis treatments vary from steroid drugs and immune suppressants to joint surgery.

Even with these differences, however, both conditions may benefit from some common remedies. For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could ease the back pain associated with both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Exercise can help preserve bone strength while also improving joint lubrication and flexibility.

What Self-Care Methods Can Help Both Osteoporosis and Arthritis?

Your doctor can devise a self-care program that helps you cope with both osteoporosis and arthritis at home. In addition to maintaining a low-impact, medically approved exercise routine, steer clear of drinking alcohol and smoking, since both these habits can accelerate bone loss and inhibit healing.

Weight control could prove immensely helpful for both conditions as well. Obesity not only contributes to weakened bones, but it can also accelerate the deterioration in weight-bearing joints. Regular exercise and a sensible diet can help you lose unwanted weight and keep it off, sparing your musculoskeletal system unnecessary stress.

If you have both osteoporosis and arthritis, minimize your risk of tripping and falling as much as possible. Consider rearranging areas of your home to allow for shorter, more obstacle-free traffic paths. Clean up spills promptly, wear shoes that grip the floor, and maintain adequate lighting levels.

If you struggle with the painful, debilitating double threat of osteoporosis and arthritis, Sarasota Arthritis Center can provide you with personalized treatment and self-management solutions for both conditions. Contact our clinic today to schedule an appointment.

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