Alternative Treatment Therapies for Osteopenia

3 Ways to Promote Bone Health Naturally

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Osteopenia is a condition marked by low bone mass. Although people with osteopenia have less dense bones than normal, the condition is not as severe as osteoporosis. However, people with osteopenia are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis if their condition is left untreated.

An estimated 18 million people in the U.S. have osteopenia.

A teenager walking with her grandmother
Don Bayley / E+ / Getty Images

Alternative Therapies

Several natural substances and alternative therapies have been studied for their effects on bone health. Here's a look at some key findings:

Tai Chi

In a 2007 study of 49 older adults with osteopenia or osteoporosis, scientists found that 18 weeks of training in tai chi (an ancient Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movements with meditation and deep breathing) helped improve balance and may reduce the risk of falling.

A systematic review published the same year concluded that tai chi may be an effective, safe, and practical intervention for maintaining bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. However, the review's authors note that existing studies on tai chi's bone-protecting effects are limited in quantity and quality.

Green Tea

Consumption of green tea might improve bone mineral density by stimulating activity in bone-forming cells and inhibiting activity in bone-weakening cells, according to a report published in 2009.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is common among patients with osteopenia (as well as osteoporosis), suggests a 2006 study of 448 individuals. Vitamin D is essential for helping the body absorb calcium, a mineral key to forming and maintaining bone.

Exposure to the sun's UVB rays helps the body synthesize vitamin D. But because UV exposure is known to increase your risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends obtaining vitamin D from foods and supplements.

Risk Factors

Because aging-related processes deplete bone of minerals and mass, your risk for osteopenia (as well as osteoporosis) is likely to increase as you get older.

In addition, women are more prone to osteopenia and osteoporosis than men, due to their naturally lower bone mineral density and certain bone-affecting hormonal changes that occur during menopause.

Other factors that may raise your risk for osteopenia include:

  • eating disorders or other issues that prevent the body from absorbing a sufficient amount of minerals and vitamins
  • exposure to radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • a family history of osteoporosis
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • use of certain medications, such as steroids

Other Ways to Maintain Bone Health

These strategies can also help preserve bone health:

  • Getting enough calcium (between 1000 to 1500 mg per day, depending on your age, dietary intake, and other health conditions)
  • Getting regular exercise, including weight-bearing exercise
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Avoiding smoking

A Word From Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend alternative medicine for osteopenia. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using alternative medicine for osteopenia (or any other condition), make sure to consult your physician first.

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