Can You Work With Osteoporosis?

Whether you can work with osteoporosis depends on many things. For example, how advanced it is, the type of work you do, and whether you can make safe workplace adjustments.

Early on, most people don’t know they have osteoporosis. But it’s a progressive disease that can become debilitating. It can present challenges in all areas of life. 

This article discusses osteoporosis on the job, when you might want to tell your employer, and whether Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are an option.

Bone density scan of hip
Tonpor Kasa / Getty Images.

Osteoporosis Symptoms and Risks

In osteoporosis, there's a decrease in bone mineral density and bone mass, or changes to the structure and strength of the bones. As a result, with osteoporosis, you're at higher risk of bone fractures.

Osteoporosis has a reputation as a "silent disease" because early on, most people don't have obvious symptoms. Often, the first hint of a problem is a fractured bone. A few other signs are:

  • Severe back pain
  • Loss of height
  • Stooped or hunched posture

Broken bones can occur from seemingly harmless activities, such as:

  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Bending, lifting
  • Tripping
  • Falling from a low height

Bone fractures can lead to complications such as:

Employment and Osteoporosis

Having osteoporosis doesn't necessarily mean you will break a bone or can't work. Because bone deterioration is a gradual process, much depends on the stage of osteoporosis you're in. Other considerations are:

  • Age and comorbid (coexisting) health conditions
  • If you have chronic pain or mobility problems
  • Whether you've had a recent injury
  • The type of work you do
  • If your employer can make accommodations, should you need them

Risks in the Workplace

Your job may place you at risk of a fall or fracture if it involves:

  • Repetitive flexing, bending, or twisting of your spine
  • Climbing ladders
  • Heavy lifting
  • High-impact activities
  • Tripping hazards

Do You Need to Tell Your Employer?

You're not obligated to tell your employer that you have osteoporosis. You will have to tell them about your condition if you plan to ask for reasonable accommodations.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a reasonable accommodation is a modification to your job, work environment, or the hiring process. This includes physical changes as well as accessible and assistive technologies that could help a person with osteoporosis.

Under the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), your employer can ask for health information if you're seeking workers' compensation or sick leave.

High-Risk Jobs

Jobs that require intense physical labor may become risky for people with osteoporosis, especially in the later stages of development. As well, sitting at a desk all day can put stress on the neck and spine, leading to muscle tension and strain.

Your risk depends on the specifics of your health, they type of work you do, and your workplace environment. If you have any questions about the safety of your work situation, a discussion with your healthcare provider may help clarify things.

Adaptations to Create a Safe Work Environment

You can do some things to manage pain and lower the risk of fractures in the workplace.

Managing Pain

Try to vary your workflow so that you're not spending too much time in one position. Alternating between sitting and standing or taking quick walk breaks may help.

When taking pain medication, don't take more than the recommended dose. Some prescription medications can affect your performance and cause safety issues, such as sleepiness. It's important to discuss this with your healthcare provider in advance to see if there are alternatives. Otherwise, you may want to ask your employer for accommodations.

Managing pain on your off hours can help on the job. Research suggests that practices such as yoga and Pilates can reduce chronic pain in the spine. Other therapies you might find helpful are physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions.

Avoiding Fractures

Avoiding fractures means taking steps to reduce slips, trips, and falls. You can do some on your own or you may need to ask your employer for accommodations such as:

  • Keeping the area free of clutter
  • Moving electrical cords that create a tripping hazard
  • Adding stable, nonskid runners to slippery floors
  • Wearing shoes with nonslip soles
  • Installing good lighting and handrails on both sides of a staircase
  • Installing grab bars in the bathroom
  • Using whatever safety equipment is appropriate for the job

When recovering from an injury, consider using a cane or walker for extra support while you heal. If you fall, it may be difficult to get back up without help. Keep a cell phone with you or get a medical alert system.

Social Security Disability Benefits for Osteoporosis

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a Blue Book titled "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security." It's a listing of impairments considered severe enough to stop you from working. It also covers the medical criteria needed to get approved for benefits.

Osteoporosis is not listed, but there are considerations for frequent, complex, and nonhealing bone fractures.

Also, osteoporosis can sometimes occur due to another condition, such as an endocrine disorder, liver disease, or cancer. In some cases, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to the underlying condition.

Meeting Medical Criteria

Typically, the SSA pays benefits to those who can't work for a year or more due to a disability. You must have significant limitations that prevent you from basic work-related activities.

Using a Medical Vocational Allowance

A medical vocational allowance is a way to get disability benefits even if you don't meet Blue Book requirements. The SSA reviews your medical records and work history and may grant a medical vocational allowance if you:

  • Are no longer able to do the same work as your last job or any job you've held in the last 15 years
  • Are not able to do another type of work based on factors such as skills, education, age, and level of function

How to Apply for Benefits

The SSA provides a checklist so you can get your records in order. Along with information about yourself and your work, you'll need to gather medical records and provide contact information for your providers. You can send these documents through the mail or bring them down to your local SSA office.

You can call for an appointment, but you might find it easier to apply for benefits online.


Many people with osteoporosis continue to work. You don't have to tell your employer about your health unless you're asking for workplace accommodations.

As the disease progresses, it can be disabling. In some cases, you may not be able to keep working. If that happens, you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits. It's a process that involves documenting your work history and your medical condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is osteoporosis considered a disability?

    Osteoporosis is not listed in the SSA's Blue Book, but that doesn't mean it can't be disabling. Bone fractures can lead to severe complications and poor quality of life. Hip fractures are also associated with a 2.5 times increase in future fractures. People with hip fractures have a 15% to 20% increased mortality rate within a year.

  • Are you allowed to work while receiving disability benefits?

    There are certain situations in which you can work and still receive benefits. If you want to try working, check the SSA website for information on work incentives and the Ticket to Work program. Also, be sure to report any changes in employment.

  • What activities should you avoid with osteoporosis?

    Physical activity is good for osteoporosis, but it may be wise to avoid activities that increase the risk of falling. If you have severe osteoporosis, you might also want to avoid contact sports, higher-impact activities, and anything that bends, twists, or compresses the spine. Your healthcare provider can advise you based on your individual circumstances.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoporosis.

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  5. Department of Health & Human Services. Employers and health information in the workplace.

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  8. Social Security Administration. Disability benefits. How you qualify.

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Additional Reading

By Ann Pietrangelo
Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer, health reporter, and author of two books about her personal health experiences.