While it most commonly affects the spine and other weight-bearing bones, osteoporosis can affect any bone, including the hands.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease. This reduces its strength and makes it prone to breakage (fracture).

This article explores whether osteoporosis affects the hands.

It also discusses the bones it commonly affects, the symptoms of osteoporosis, treatment options, and more.

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Osteoporosis can affect all bones, including in the hands. However, weight-bearing structures such as the spine and hip bones are more likely to give way first than other body areas.

Finger fractures

Fractures in other bones are less common, but they may occur. A 2017 study reported five patients with seven fractured fingers from 2010–2017. All of the people were receiving treatment for osteoporosis at the time of their injury.

All of the fractures involved the base of the shaft of the proximal phalanx, which is the part of the finger closest to the palm of the hand. The fractures occurred due to a direct blow from a heavy object falling on the fingers or entrapment in a door.

An older study from 2013 found that the phalanx is sensitive to bone tissue changes that occur in osteoporosis and aging.

Similarly, a 2022 study suggests that quantitative ultrasound (QUS) of the phalanx may be a useful screening method to detect secondary osteoporosis.

Distal radius fractures

A distal radius fracture, which is a fracture of one of two forearm bones, is the second most common fracture in older adults and is most often a result of underlying bone metabolism abnormalities such as osteoporosis. The rate of osteoporosis is also higher in older adults with distal radius fractures.

While the fracture does not occur in the hand, a distal radius fracture can lead to significant disability and impaired wrist and hand function and mobility.

Sustaining this fracture from low-energy trauma is also a well-established predictor of osteoporosis and subsequent osteoporotic fragility fractures.

Other fractures

Osteoporotic fractures may also occur secondary to medications or particular underlying conditions.

A 2016 case study reported that finger fractures might be an early skeletal manifestation of primary hyperthyroidism, which may cause or increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis.

Learn more about the link between hyperthyroidism and osteoporosis here.

Vertebral compression fractures are almost twice more likely to relate to osteoporosis than other fractures that occur due to osteoporosis.

Other common sites include the hips and the wrists.

Falling is common among older adults, with 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 years falling each year in the United States. Consequently, most fractures on long bones and the distal end of the radius, which are common fragility fractures among those with osteoporosis, are due to trauma from falls.

Experts call osteoporosis a “silent” disease because it typically causes no symptoms until a fracture.

Common symptoms of vertebral fractures include:

  • loss of height
  • posture changes, such as a stooped or hunched posture
  • severe back pain

Learn more about the possible early warning signs of osteoporosis here.

The treatment for osteoporosis involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Treating the condition may help prevent further bone loss and reduce a person’s risk of fractures, including those in the hands.

People with osteoporosis will benefit from lifestyle changes such as participating in weight-bearing activities and regularly performing activities that improve balance, such as yoga.

Learn more about exercise for osteoporosis here.

There are multiple medications for osteoporosis. In people assigned female at birth with known osteoporosis, doctors may recommend starting with the following to reduce their risk of fracture:

  • risedronate
  • alendronate
  • zoledronic acid
  • denosumab

Meanwhile, doctors recommend bisphosphonates as the first line of treatment for people assigned male at birth with osteoporosis. The following medications are available for those who cannot tolerate oral bisphosphonates:

  • teriparatide
  • raloxifene
  • ibandronate

Learn more about osteoporosis medications here.

Because osteoporosis typically does not cause symptoms, doctors may diagnose it during routine screening or following a fracture.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for females who are over the age of 65 years or if they are at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Doctors use dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) to measure bone density at the spine and hip to diagnose osteoporosis and detect fracture risk. A bone density score of -2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis.

Learn more about DEXA scans here.

It may be possible to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Below are some ways to prevent osteoporosis and keep bones strong as a person ages:

  • Get enough vitamin D, protein, and calcium.
  • Perform weight-bearing exercises and activities such as walking, jogging, and dancing.
  • Quit smoking if applicable, as smoking can weaken bones.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or limit consumption.

A person’s doctor can provide more advice on ways they can reduce their risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis can affect the hands, although weight-bearing structures such as the spine and hip bones are more likely to be affected first.

Symptoms of osteoporosis are typically not present until a fracture occurs, so it is essential to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of the condition developing.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor if they have concerns about osteoporosis. They will be able to advise on whether they recommend screenings or diagnostic tests.