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Here's What Bone Loss Feels Like, Say Physicians

Experts explain everything to know about bone loss. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

As we age, our bones can weaken and become brittle making them more susceptible to fractures. Changes usually start taking place after the age of 50 and "an estimated 54 million Americans are thought to have osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and causes bone loss," Dr. Theodore Strange, Chair of Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital tells Eat This, Not That! Health. "This usually starts as a condition known as osteopenia, which is a thinning of bone." Bone loss can progress often without symptoms or pain, but there are a few signs to watch out for. ETNT Health! spoke with experts who explain what to know about bone loss. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Bone Loss?

doctor showing patient bones

Stephan Baldwin, elderly health expert and founder of Assisted Living says, "Bone loss – commonly known as Osteoporosis – occurs when our mineral deposits get thrown out of equilibrium. Calcium and phosphorus are the main constituents of bone. When the body fails to replace the amount of these minerals depleted daily, their absence leaves a hollow structure within the bone matrix."


What Causes Bone Loss?

Bone Densitometry Examination

Dr. Strange shares, "There are many causes for the development of osteoporosis, which includes: family history, ethnicity, gender, and post menopause. Certain medical conditions can cause bone loss, such as, thyroid disease, hyperparathyroidism, overactive adrenal gland, low calcium intake and other eating disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney or liver disease, multiple myeloma and rheumatoid arthritis – to name a few common ones.  In addition, medication can also lead to bone loss. Examples of which medications would be; steroids, thyroid replacement medication, gastric reflux meds, antiseizure medication and transplant medications." 


Poor Lifestyle Choices Can Lead to Bone Loss

woman smoking cigarette near people

Dr. Strange says, "A sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking contributes to increased bone loss. There may not be any signs of bone loss until late, but some signs could include receding gum lines, loss of height, cramps and bone pain, change in posture, and fractures of bones." Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD is a senior dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, and author with Cambridge university Press, of the new book, RECIPE FOR SURVIVAL adds, "Some occur as a normal part of aging. Some occur from being sedentary.  When we compress bone (walking/running/impact), that can slow down bone loss, and help rebuild it.  But being sedentary and non-weight bearing can lead to more/faster loss. So can having insufficient calcium and vitamin D, you need those (plus some phosphorus and other minerals, to build bone)."


Signs of Bone Loss

Woman feeling sharp pain.

Hunnes states, "You may not always have signs or symptoms, but, some may include what feels like achy bones, you're losing height (bone loss in spine), hunching. Otherwise, you probably need a Dexa-scan or similar to tell you."

According to Baldwin, "Depleted bones are typically brittle and leave you feeling fragile. You may notice you're more clumsy than usual: easily tripping over items or falling unexpectedly. These events happen when the femur – the thigh bone and largest bone in the body – loses stability due to poor nutrient support. Brittle bones can't support weight, so it's no surprise that you'll suddenly struggle to keep up with yours. Overall, patients who have osteoporosis are more likely to suffer frequent bone fractures. Loss of height is also a common symptom of bone loss in the elderly. Bone loss isn't localized; it usually affects multiple structures. The bones in the spine, for example, may collapse and leave patients with a hunched back." 

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What Bone Loss Feels Like

Mature woman suffering from pain in wrist at home

Dr. Strange reveals, "One may not feel anything at all until a fracture occurs or an x-ray shows signs of osteoporosis." 

"You probably don't feel it, but, if you break or fracture a bone, it could take longer to heal," Hunnes states. "You're simply more prone to bone breaks or fractures."

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How Bone Loss Can Be Prevented

Calcium supplement tablet pills on dark wooden background

"Osteoporosis can be prevented by educating with a good diet of Vitamin D and calcium, regular exercise, no smoking and limited alcohol intake," says Dr. Strange. 

Hunnes shares, "Healthy diet, varied proteins, mostly plant-based (more alkaline, which preserves blood pH and doesn't leach calcium from bones to adjust that pH).  Avoidance of sodas that take the place healthier/nutrient-rich foods/beverages. Mostly Whole Foods, rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds. Calcium rich plant milks/yoghurts or other vegetables (broccoli, bok choy) high in calcium, vitamin D fortified plant milks.  Weight-bearing activities like walking/running."

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Can Bone Loss Be Reversed?

mature women doing squats

Dr. Strange explains, "Osteoporosis cannot be completely reversed but health AND lifestyle adjustments as well as medication can Improve and/or slow bone loss." 

According to Hunnes, "Some of this depends on age, the older we are, especially after menopause the more difficult it is. Healthy diet, activity, (and possibly meds) may help, but not guaranteed." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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