Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation within a person’s joints. Contrastingly, osteoporosis is when a person has low bone mineral density. People sometimes confuse osteoporosis with osteoarthritis, which is a type of arthritis.

Arthritis can have many causes. When an autoimmune reaction causes joint inflammation, healthcare professionals define the condition as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Contrastingly, osteoarthritis primarily develops due to cartilage degradation in the joints.

Osteoarthritis is therefore different from osteoporosis, which is when a person has low bone mineral density.

Both arthritis and osteoporosis can cause pain around the joints and bones. However, doctors treat the conditions differently.

This article discusses osteoporosis and the two primary forms of arthritis in more detail. It also explores the typical treatment procedures for both conditions. Finally, it answers some common questions about arthritis and osteoporosis.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Osteoporosis is a condition that affects a person’s bones. More precisely, scientists define osteoporosis as a condition in which a person’s bones have a low mineral density. This makes their bones more prone to fracturing, breaking, or sustaining other forms of damage. It can be very painful.

Some groups of people are at an elevated risk of developing osteoporosis, or osteoporotic fractures. White and Asian individuals are more likely to develop the condition. Additionally, being female is a risk factor for osteoporosis, especially after menopause. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age.

Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • chronic inflammatory conditions
  • using certain medications, such as steroids
  • celiac disease

While osteoporosis affects the bones, arthritis is a condition that negatively impacts a person’s joints. Scientists define arthritis as joint inflammation, which might be acute, which is sudden, or chronic, which is long term. This inflammation can lead to stiffness, pain, reduced range of motion, or deformities in the affected joints.

There are two main forms of arthritis: osteoarthritis and RA.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting around 3.3–3.6% of the global population. Similar to osteoporosis, the risk of osteoarthritis increases with age. In the United States, roughly 80% of individuals aged 65 and over have this condition.

Additionally, some people are more prone to developing this form of arthritis due to underlying conditions that affect the joints.

Osteoarthritis primarily arises due to joint wear and tear. As an individual uses their joints over their life, various protective mechanisms in the body may begin to break down. This often involves cartilage erosion, but it may also affect the bones.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Scientists define RA as an autoimmune condition. This means that it arises due to malfunctions in a person’s immune system. In RA, a person’s immune system reacts to some of the cells in the joints as though they were an invading pathogen, such as viruses or bacteria.

The result of this reaction is damage to the joints due to inflammation. Over time, this can lead to joint erosion. RA affects around 0.24% of the global population.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for arthritis, visit our dedicated hub.

There are some similarities between arthritis and osteoporosis treatments. For example, doctors may recommend exercise for both. However, there are many significant differences between the typical treatments for these conditions.

Lifestyle changes

In the case of arthritis, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to help manage the condition. Alongside certain forms of exercise, these might include:

Doctors also recommend lifestyle changes for osteoporosis, including exercise. The aim of the exercises is to reduce the risk of bone fractures. Healthcare professionals may recommend exercises that involve balance, coordination, and strength building, such as tai chi or yoga.

They may also recommend a person stops smoking or reduces their alcohol consumption.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are very important for people with osteoporosis, as they can make it more likely for a person to develop healthier bones. These supplements include calcium, which is crucial for maintaining bone density, and vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

Contrastingly, dietary supplementation is not an essential part of arthritis treatment.

Medications

It is common for healthcare professionals to recommend medications for arthritis and osteoporosis. These are likely to include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for osteoarthritis and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for RA.

A doctor may prescribe different medications for treating osteoporosis depending on whether a person is male or female. However, both females and males with osteoporosis could benefit from bisphosphonates, such as:

Below are some of the most common questions about osteoporosis and arthritis.

Is there a connection between osteoporosis and arthritis?

Although this does not happen in all cases, osteoporosis can be a complication of RA. In fact, people with RA are 60–100% more likely to develop a bone fracture when compared to the general population.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis arthritis?

There is no such condition as osteoporosis arthritis. There is osteoporosis, and arthritis is a separate condition, which divides into rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Osteoporosis and arthritis have different symptoms. Osteoporosis causes bone fragility, which means that a person’s bones are more likely to fracture. The main symptom of the condition is bone pain as a result of a bone fracture.

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • joint pain
  • joint stiffness
  • decreased range of motion in the joints

A person should speak with a doctor if they think they have either condition.

Will a bone density test show arthritis?

Doctors may use a DEXA scan to determine if someone might have low bone density. This can help diagnose osteoporosis but is not very useful for detecting arthritis.

However, some types of arthritis affect bone health, so a DEXA scan may be beneficial for a person with arthritis.

Although the progression of both conditions can cause pain around the bones and joints, arthritis and osteoporosis are different conditions. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, which can arise due to an autoimmune reaction or joint usage over time. Low mineral density in the bones causes osteoporosis.

A doctor will usually recommend different treatments for each condition. However, exercise and lifestyle changes may benefit people with both conditions.

A person should speak with a doctor for further information about arthritis and osteoporosis.