The Differences Between Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. 

 October 3, 2022

By  Linda Rook

Elbow Joint


Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and osteopenia all attack your joints. Osteoporosis and osteopenia cause a reduction in bone density, whereas osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage around the joints called wear and tear. 

I shall delve into these three types of arthritis giving you information about the prevention, causes risk factors, symptoms and much more ...

Calcium - milk and yoghurts


Several medications are used to treat osteoporosis. Some help decreases how fast the bone is broken down, and some increase the rate of the bone-building back up.

The hospital will do a T-score of your bone mass. A T-score of 1 to 2.5 is low, and you risk fracturing your bones. The T-score is taken from your hip or lumbar spine.


Osteoporosis is not a part of ageing, but you should prevent your child from developing the disease at an early age, to build stronger bones as they age. For example:

Eating or drinking calcium-rich products such as the following:

Dairy products like milk, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, and kefir.

  • Cruciferous vegetables like collard greens, kale or broccoli,
  • Spinach, kelp or okra.
  • Fish such as Sardines and rainbow trout.
  • Soybeans or white beans.
  • Orange juice.
  • Fish and Sea Fish - Sardines

    Vitamin D helps to get healthy bones. You can get this from sunlight, whereas if you stay indoors or have dark skin, you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

    You can reduce the risk of developing or slowing down the progress of osteoporosis with the following:

    Fresh Healthy Fruit and Veg.
  • Do at least half an hour of low-impact weight-bearing exercises. It could mean swimming or walking.
  • Eat healthily and have at least five fruit and vegetables a   day.  A healthy diet is low fat and high calcium foods.               Also, potassium-rich foods like apricots, bananas, prunes or sweet potatoes.
  • Limit your intake of salt and sugar.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages; the best drink is plain water.
  • You should limit your intake of drinking alcohol and stop smoking.
  • When you already develop osteoporosis, you should take care not to fall around the house. To help you from tripping or falling, you should do the following:

  • If you get up at night, you should keep a torch on your bedside table.
  • Remove or tape down rugs and keep cords and wires tidy and away from gangways where you can easily trip on them.
  • You should be very careful going up or down the stairs, particularly if you have pets. They always like coming down with          you, I know what it’s like with pets about.
  • For women, always wear low heel shoes that offer good support.
  • Install safety rails in your bathroom, in your shower, over the bath, and around the toilet to prevent slipping.
  • Tape Down All Rugs so that you don't slip


    When you have osteoporosis, it is best if you do some weight-bearing exercises each day. Weight-bearing exercise is in two groups high impact and low impact.

    High impact involves jumping around, which may not be suitable for those at high risk of breaking bones.

    High-impact exercises to prevent this disease could be:

    • Aerobics.
    • Any ball games such as basketball, football etc.
    • Dancing or gymnastics.
    • Hiking, jogging or running.
    • Jumping or skipping, including skipping rope.
    • Sports with rackets such as tennis, squash or badminton.
    • And trampolining.

    Low-impact exercises to protect against osteoporosis are the following:

    • Gym equipment such as cross-training or elliptical training machines.
    • Exercises to help with your balance.
    • Gardening.
    • Low impact aerobics.
    • Karate, tai chi or taekwondo.
    • Press-ups or squats.
    • Walking.
    • Weight lifting.
    • And rock climbing.

    If you have significant osteoporosis, you need gentle exercise; the following are done sitting in your chair.

  • Sit upright and stretch your arms to the sides, then sit up tall with your chest out and feel it stretching. Hold for ten seconds and relax. You can repeat this ten times.
  • Sit upright with your arms crossed, putting your hands on your shoulders. Keeping your hips straight, twist the upper body to look over your right shoulder, hold for five to ten seconds, then the left. Try and do this ten times.
  • Sit upright, holding onto the base of your chair, lift your right knee up as high as it can, put it down on the floor, and do the same for the left. Try and do it ten times.
  • Causes.

    Osteoporosis is a bone disease that attacks the thinning of the bone or/and loss of density coursing bone fracture, and eventually broken bone. As a result, your body cannot make new bones, or your body reabsorbs old bones, or it could be both.

    There are several ways that your bones can weaken; they are:

    • Calcium – is a mineral that is essential to keep healthy bones. We find calcium in our diets.
    • Ageing – when we age, the body reabsorbs the calcium from the bones, leaving them brittle, fragile and can fracture easily.
    aerobic exercises

    Risk factors.

    There are several risk factors of osteoporosis that are uncontrollable such as:

  • Ageing – over the age of fifty, the bone density declines            faster.
  • Diet – Healthy diet can help by having regular calcium             and minerals.
  • Exercises – weight-bearing exercises can help bone                 density.
  • Sexual hormone levels – Men with low testosterone and           women after menopause.
  • Weather – a small amount of exposure to the sun is                  needed on your skin to help with vitamin D.
  • Other medical conditions – you are at high risk if you                  already have IBS, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or RA          rheumatoid arthritis
  • Medication – some medicines, such as corticosteroids, antiandrogens and some inhibitors, can be highly risky.
  • Drinking and smoking – a high alcohol level or if you smoke can increase the risk.
  • Weight – if you are underweight, you may have a low bone density.
  • Or if you have previous injuries like a fracture.
  • Symptoms.

    There are no symptoms of osteoporosis usually; this is why it is called the silent disease. Saying this, you should look out for the following:

    • You may feel the changes in your height; you may feel that you are becoming shorter.
    • You could be changing your posture by stooping or bending forward.
    • You may become short of breath; this could be due to compressed disks.
    • You may develop bone fractures.
    • Or you could develop pain in the lower back.
    • Osteoarthritis.

      Osteoarthritis is a common type of arthritis, where it’s wearing away the cartilage that is between the joint bones. The wearing away happens over time. Osteoarthritis is also called wear and tear or degenerative joint disease.

      Osteoarthritis can attack any joint, mainly the hips, knees, spine and hands. Although osteoarthritis can manage the symptoms, the disease, unfortunately, can’t be reversed.


      you can prevent daily stress on your joints and help prevent the disease from detreating quickly by taking care of yourself by:

      • Blood level – if you have a high blood sugar level, you risk developing OA and diabetes.
      • Injury – you should prevent injuries that can increase the risk of OA.

      I have osteoarthritis due to falling on the curb on a snowy, icy day. As a result, I now have OA in both knees, right hip replacement, and my left hip.  It is now in my shoulder and wrists and travelling around my body.


      Keeping active every day, you should do some sort of exercise to prevent problems of the joints from stiffening; also, it keeps your muscles strong. On most days, you should do at least half an hour. Talk to your healthcare provider about safety exercises.

      Exercises that are recommended with osteoarthritis are exercises that help with flexibility and stability of the joints and strengthen muscles. Exercises like swimming, water aerobics or low-impact strength exercises also are recommended. See your physiotherapist or occupational therapist, as they can give you a tailored exercise programme.


    Heat or cold therapy.

    When your joint pain is bad, you need a heat pack on the affected joint; this could also be a hot shower or bath. In addition, it would help if you used an ice pack for inflammation, but don’t put the pack or pad straight onto your skin.

    heat packs
    Unexplained Weight Gain


    Keeping your weight down, if you are overweight or obese, you are putting stress on your weight-bearing joints such as your hips, knees, ankles and feet. It’s best to speak to your healthcare provider for safe ways to lose excess weight. Weight loss has proven that osteoarthritis people have reduced stress and pain in their weight-bearing joints and their inflammation.


    Osteoarthritis is a disease that attacks the cartilage that is at the ends of the bones in the joints and deteriorates gradually. The cartilage is a firm tissue that is slippery and enables the movement of the joint to go smoothly. When the cartilage wears down, the bone then rubs on bone, making the sensation of grating and cracking.


    In my case, when I fell on my knee on the ice, my osteoarthritis of the right hip, over time, could not be controlled with medication, and I could not climb stairs or walk far before getting chronic pain. The specialist thought that I needed a hip replacement. The surgery has restored some function in my legs and hip, But (they say that surgery has risks), it did for me. The surgery was over thirty years ago, and I am now living with the right leg longer than the left, leaving me with a crooked spine in the lumber religion and a block on my left shoe to try and balance me properly.

    Risk factors

    Risk factors from developing or increasing your risk of osteoarthritis are:

    • Women – are more at risk than men, but it’s unknown why.
    • Obesity – carrying extra weight means contributing to your arthritis in several ways. The more you weigh, the greater risk of stress to your weight-bearing joints. Also, being overweight produces more fatty tissue protein that can cause inflammation.
    • Injury – a sports injury or an accident (like slipping on ice) can increase the risk factor. Even if the injury has healed over time, you are still at risk.
    • Repetitive movement – when you play sports or have a job with a repetitive action like in a factory or moving boxes all day, you are putting more stress on your joint(s); this can develop over time into osteoarthritis.
    • Genetics – you can inherit osteoarthritis.
    • Deformities – can develop in some people born with either misshapen joints or faulty cartilage.


    To help with osteoarthritis symptoms, you should stay active and maintain a healthy weight with a proper natural diet.

    The first symptoms are usually mild, with morning stiffness for about 30 minutes until you start moving again.

    • Pain - pain can occur after or during movements.
    • Stiffness - stiffness is noticeable on waking or after no activity.
    • Tenderness - you will feel tender when applying pressure around or on the affected joint.
    • Flexibility - your flexibility may get impaired with a full range of motions.
    • Sensations - you may feel grating, cracking or popping sensations when you move.
    • Bone spurs - bone spurs are hard lumps that can occur and form around the joint.
    • Swelling - swelling can occur when the soft tissue around the affected joint is inflammation.
    Pain in Fingers

    But then it develops into severe symptoms, for example.

    • More noticeable pain mainly presents when you move about but decreases when you rest.
    • You may begin to have stiffness in the joint(s) affected.
    • The affected joint will have noticeable swelling around it.
    • If your fingers are affected, you may have bony growths called nodules. The knuckles near your nails are called Heberden’s nodules, and the middle finger knuckles are called Bouchard’s nodules. These nodules are common in elderly ladies.
    • You may hear creaking sounds when you move due to the bones rubbing together.
    • The last one is that your joint will feel hot to the touch due to inflammation or ‘flare-ups’.


    Osteopenia is a milder disease than osteoporosis, where osteopenia does not weaken the bone as much to the effect that it breaks easily. Osteopenia can develop into osteoporosis but not all the time. People with osteopenia should protect and strengthen their joints, and the healthcare provider should frequently monitor the mineral density in the bones.


    There isn’t a cure for osteopenia, so you must preserve the bone density as much as you can.

    You can prevent or improve the affected bone mineral density by simple strategies to stop the progression into osteoporosis, they are:

    • Do daily weight-bearing exercises - or low-impact exercises. Low-impact exercise could be walking, swimming, cycling, or going to your gym and using a treadmill or cycle. These exercises can also prevent osteopenia from progressing into osteoporosis.
    • Supplements - one supplement that can help you is vitamin D; you can get this from the sun.


    When you develop osteopenia, there are some different exercises that you can do to keep the disease from progressing into osteoporosis.

    The different exercises are low-impact exercises or weight training, BUT WITH CAUTION.

    Low impact exercises.

    • Go to the gym and try their treadmill, or go for a walk in the fresh air.
    • Try out the elliptical training.
    • Keep on climbing the stairs is good for your leg muscles too.

    Weight training.

    Weight training is suitable for your bone density and bone loss. It’s done by applying some muscle resistance and stimulating your bones; this could be the following:

    • Bodyweight or free weights.
    • Stretch bands or tubes.
    • Weight machines or weight balls.

    Exercises for the bones that are at risk of fracturing, for example, the spine, hips and wrists you, should use:

    • Lighter weights help your legs, back, chest, shoulders and arms.



    The leading cause of developing osteopenia is fractures, especially for those of you with low bone density. It’s best if you prevent falling around the house. The precautions may be:

    • It would be best if you made sure that there is sufficient lighting.
    • If you have stairs in your home you could put a chair lift in.
    • Install railings in the shower, bath and toilet.
    • Remove or tape well down the rugs as they turn up at the corners. A trip hazard.
    • Be particularly careful on snow and ice, and wipe any spills immediately.
    stair chair a device for the home stairs.

    Risk factors.

    The risk factors are the same for all three of these arthritis symptoms, which are:

    • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
    • Eat healthy with fruit and vegetable that have calcium and vitamins.
    • Try and exercise daily, like walking, jogging or other weight training exercises that bear your weight.
    • To prevent you from getting worse and developing osteoporosis, you should have 1200mg of calcium and 800 to 1000 IU of vitamins.
    • Have a walk around the garden daily to get sunlight (weather permitting) for vitamin D.
    • Symptoms.

      Osteopenia is common with getting old; you may develop osteopenia in old age because this is when your bone mass peaks and your old bones break down faster than it can build new bone, therefore losing bone density.

      Women are more likely to develop osteopenia than men as women have low estragon after menopause.

      Other symptoms could be:

    Stop smoking sign
  • Sex: being a woman and or if you develop menopause before the age of 45.
  • Family history: could have a family history of low BMD.
  • Age: older than 50.
  • Exercises: you are not getting enough exercise.
  • Diet: if you are lacking in calcium and/or vitamin D.
  • Smoking: if you smoke, you should stop smoking or any other type of tobacco as soon as possible.
  • Drinking: you should not drink too much caffeine or alcohol.
  • Conclusion.

    The above three types of arthritis affect your musculoskeletal system, which include the bones, joints, cartilage, ligaments and muscles.

    Osteoarthritis attacks the whole of the joint, where as osteoporosis and osteopenia affects the bone.

    All three can lead to you living with an increase risk of pain, therefore a reduction of your quality of life.  The symptoms of them can increase with age also they are incurable.

    Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs or videos. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message; I will get back to you within 24 hours.

    In the meantime, if this post was informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to help them. 

    I am not a medical professional and this blog is for information only.  If you have any worries please contact your doctor.

    I hope this blog has helped.

    Linda Rook

    Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

    Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

    Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

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    Foods to Avoid When Taking Medication.

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