Symptoms of Osteoporosis

In This Article

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease by which there is a gradual deterioration of the tissue that comprises your bones. It is often called a "silent disease" because there are few to no symptoms of osteoporosis. Over time, the pace of new bone formation cannot keep up with bone loss. In turn, the reduction in bone mass weakens the skeleton, making bones weak, fragile, and more porous—and more prone to fracture.

While many factors can contribute to osteoporosis, bone health can be optimized through exercise, maintaining calcium and vitamin D intake, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. Being on the lookout for signs and symptoms of osteoporosis, should they occur, can help you get a jump on treatment.

osteoporosis common symptoms
Verywell / Gary Ferster

Frequent Symptoms of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis usually does not cause any symptoms until a fracture occurs, and even then, people may be unaware they sustained damage to a bone because they did not have an injury—especially if it occurs within the spine.

Low-energy fractures point to a possible diagnosis of osteoporosis. Additional signs and symptoms that indicate you should be tested for osteoporosis include:

  • Height loss or stooped posture
  • Sudden back pain

Low-Energy Fractures

Most everyone has had a broken bone, but usually, there is a major force that causes the injury. Fractures after a fall from a height, car crashes, or sports injuries make sense. But when you break a bone with minimal force, osteoporosis should be considered.

Height Loss or Stooping

Compression fractures of the spine can occur without injury and as a result may go undetected or be attributed to a back strain. When multiple vertebrae are involved, people may lose height or develop an abnormal curvature to their spine.

The typical appearance of an individual with compression fractures is a short stature with a stooped posture.

Sudden Back Pain

Back pain that comes on suddenly, with no apparent cause, can sometimes be a sign of a compression fracture of the spine.

It's easy to chalk up back pain to a pulled muscle, but if you have risk factors of osteoporosis and you're experiencing persistent or severe back pain for which you can't pinpoint a cause, it's a good idea to have it checked out.

No Symptoms at All

Remember that many people with osteoporosis have no indication they have the disease until a fracture occurs.

Because of that, it's important to know your risk factors for developing osteoporosis. While some are not within your control (e.g., being female, family history of the disease), others (e.g., smoking, sedentary lifestyle, low calcium intake) are modifiable. If any apply to you, it's worth being extra-diligent about getting any suspect symptoms checked out.

Complications

The most obvious complication of osteoporosis is bone fracture. These can be very serious, especially when in the spine or hip, and can have serious health implications.

A fragility fracture results from mechanical forces that otherwise would not normally cause a fracture. For example, a fall from a standing height or less should not result in a fracture, but it may in a person with osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis-related fractures can occur as the result of falls around the house.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of these injuries. Some include:

  • Asking your doctor about medications you are taking and whether or not they may lead to dizziness or falls
  • Considering a home safety assessment where interventions can be implemented (e.g., installing stair handrails, placing a non-slip bath mat, and improving lighting, to name a few)
  • Performing 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises most days of the week
  • Performing muscle-strengthening exercises two to three days a week
  • Having your vision evaluated regularly to minimize the risk of falls

When to See a Doctor

The diagnosis of osteoporosis can be made one of two ways: either by the presence of a fragility fracture—especially at the spine, hip, wrist, humerus (upper arm), rib and pelvis—or through bone mineral density testing. If you notice any symptoms of osteoporosis, or if you have many risk factors, the best thing you can do is to get screened.

Screening for osteoporosis and catching it early in the less severe stages of bone loss (known as osteopenia) is key to reducing your risk for developing fractures.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.
  1. Pisani P, Renna MD, Conversano F, et al. Major osteoporotic fragility fractures: Risk factor updates and societal impact. World J Orthop. 2016;7(3):171-81. doi:10.5312/wjo.v7.i3.171


Additional Reading