Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis – Are they the same?

Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis – Are they the same?
January 07 06:26 2021 Print This Article

Why do most people confuse osteoarthritis and osteoporosis? For a start, ‘Osteo’ means bone. Secondly, both these conditions have the same risk factors, like aging, and tend to occur in the same group of people (the elderly), often simultaneously. However, in terms of symptoms and treatment, these two conditions are quite different from each other.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, is a degenerative joint and cartilage condition. It is the most common type of arthritis, out of the 100 odd types of arthritis known to man. Osteoarthritis usually develops in joints that are repeatedly overused, such as the hips, knees, neck, lower back, or shoulder. This is often caused by playing sports, carrying excess body weight, or repeatedly performing the same task, over the course of many years. The joints get injured by repeated impact, and hence the cartilage cushion between bones starts to thin and wear away. This eventually results in painful bone-on-bone contact, joint inflammation, and the development of bony spurs.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones”. It is a degenerative bone condition, characterized by reduced bone strength and density. This makes the bones much more likely to become fractured. Osteoporosis can remain undetected for a very long time until the bones become so brittle that a spontaneous fracture occurs. However, once it has progressed to an advanced stage, osteoporosis can cause fractures even while performing simple, day-to-day actions such as lifting a bag of heavy groceries or sneezing forcefully. Osteoporosis has been linked to risk factors such as – family history, low calcium intake, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol intake. Certain medications used to treat other conditions such as lupus, asthma, and thyroid deficiencies could also become a risk factor for Osteoporosis, but it’s best to check this with a physician. In women, it is common after menopause. Osteoporosis is not accompanied by any pain or inflammation, until and unless there is a fall/accidental impact and a fracture occurs.

Testing and Diagnosis – Osteoarthritis vs. Osteoporosis

Osteoarthritis generally gives you early cues such as inflammation, tenderness, and pain in the joints so you know it’s time to visit a physician. Typically, X-Rays will be done by your doctor if he suspects osteoarthritis. This is to check for loss of cartilage and a diminished joint space, hallmarks of this condition. Bone spurs, if any, will also show up on the X-Ray. The patient’s medical history will also be a key component of the diagnosis for Osteoarthritis. There are no blood tests used to diagnose Osteoarthritis.

Osteoporosis is a bit trickier to diagnose. It is often referred to as the “silent thief” because it doesn’t show any outward symptoms or warning signs. Since there is no pain or inflammation, experts emphasise the need for early and frequent screening for Osteoporosis. It is preferable to catch this early and treat it, before it progresses to an advanced stage and fractures begin to occur. A bone density test, called dual-energy X-Ray absorptiometry, is used to test for this condition.

Managing Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis

Both conditions, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis, have no cure. On-going management of the symptoms is key.

With osteoarthritis, the main symptoms that need to be managed are pain and inflammation. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your physician will be able to suggest the appropriate medication. Hot and cold treatments are also known to help with inflammation of the joints. Controlled Physical therapy is also recommended to help regain some mobility in the joints. In advanced cases of degeneration, a surgical joint replacement is recommended.

Osteoporosis can also be treated with the appropriate medication prescribed by your physician. In addition to this, great emphasis is laid on diet and exercise. Adequate calcium intake can reduce the rate of degeneration of the bone and help maintain better bone density. Controlled Strength training exercises can also help manage pain and improve bone and muscle strength. If a fracture has occurred, for example in the hip, it will need to be repaired surgically, at the discretion of the physician.

Managing both conditions together can be tricky. The recommended exercise for osteoporosis, for instance, possibly cannot be performed due to the osteoarthritis. In cases such as this, it is recommended to consult an experienced physiotherapist, to design exercises at an optimal level and monitor the patient during exercise to prevent any further injury.


Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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