Can Height Loss Be a Symptom of Osteoporosis?

Yes, and it may be the only one

It’s normal to lose a little height in the second half of life. But significant height loss can signify a medical condition, often osteoporosis.

In this article, you’ll learn how and why osteoporosis can cause height loss and what you can do about it. 

A healthcare provider measuring a senior woman to check on height loss.

andresr / Getty Images

What Is Height Loss?

People reach a maximum height during adulthood but eventually become a little shorter over time, resulting in height loss. For example, a man might be half an inch shorter at age 80 than at 35. Or a woman who was once 5 feet, 4 inches might only be 5 feet, 2 inches tall at age 90. 

Height loss happens gradually, so you may not notice it. People might start losing just a bit of height in their 40s or 50s but more rapidly by age 70.

Some height loss is a normal part of aging, which can cause changes in the spinal bones, the vertebral discs between them, or posture.

It’s not entirely clear what constitutes average height loss, but a loss of more than 1 inch or so may point to an additional problem requiring treatment.

Is Height Loss a Symptom of Osteoporosis?

Since osteoporosis causes weakened and less dense bones, it can cause height loss. A loss of height may be the only symptom of osteoporosis you have until you fracture one of your bones. 

Interestingly, people with height loss seem to have an increased risk of having a significant fracture. One study showed that men who had lost more than 3 centimeters (cm) of height had twice the risk of getting a hip fracture compared to men who had lost less than 1 cm.

Compression fractures (spinal vertebrae are squished together) and kyphosis (rounded upper back or hunchback) are two major ways osteoporosis may lead to decreased height.

Osteoporosis Risk

If you are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, it can be helpful for your healthcare provider to monitor your height as you age. Being 50 or older or assigned female sex at birth increase the risk of osteoporosis, as do certain medical conditions and medications.

Compression Fractures

Osteoporosis very commonly leads to minor vertebrae fractures called compression fractures. These sometimes cause sudden back pain but often go unnoticed. Compression fractures make your vertebrae a little more compact, decreasing your height.


Osteoporosis is also connected to kyphosis, an exaggerated rounding of the upper back. Scientists aren’t quite sure of the connection between kyphosis and osteoporosis, but osteoporosis seems, in part, to cause kyphosis. Because the spine is more bent than usual, you have less overall height. 

Treatment and Management of Height Loss From Osteoporosis

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to regain the height you’ve lost from osteoporosis. However, you can take steps to prevent further height loss.

Lifestyle Modifications

The following may help you minimize height loss:


If your height loss is substantial, your healthcare provider may suggest medications to help strengthen your bones. Options include:

  • Bisphosphonates, like Actonel (risedronate), orally or intravenously (IV, within the vein)
  • Medications with parathyroid hormone, like Forteo (teriparatide), taken as an injection
  • Other types of therapies for osteoporosis, like Prolia (denosumab), taken as an injection

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If you notice that your height is less than it used to be, don’t hesitate to bring it up with your healthcare provider. Although other factors can cause decreased height, osteoporosis is a common cause. You may need treatment to help prevent future fractures.

Potential Fracture

If you have sudden severe symptoms of back pain or pain in any part of your body right after a fall, see a healthcare provider immediately. You might have a fracture that needs treatment.


Weakened bones from osteoporosis may worsen the typical height loss that occurs in older individuals. Because the bone is so fragile, vertebral fractures may occur. Osteoporosis can also contribute to compression fractures and kyphosis, shortening height.

Height loss may be the only symptom of osteoporosis that you have. Although not the only potential reason for height loss, it is often a sign that you are at risk of fracture from the disease. 

Treating osteoporosis is unlikely to give you back your lost height. However, you can dramatically reduce your risk of future fractures through lifestyle choices and potential medication. 

A Word From Verywell

You may not be too worried about losing a little height as you age. But substantial height loss could indicate osteoporosis or other underlying conditions. Speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions about height loss and to learn whether you might benefit from treatment.

8 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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  5. Hannan MT, Broe KE, Cupples LA, et al. Height loss predicts subsequent hip fracture in men and women of the framingham Study. J Bone Miner Res. 2012;27(1):146-52. doi:10.1002/jbmr.557

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By Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD
Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD, is a freelance medical and health writer and published book author.