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Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis: Are They the Same?

While osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are two very different medical conditions with little in common, the similarity of their names often causes confusion. These conditions develop differently, have different symptoms, are diagnosed differently, and are treated differently. While it is possible to have both osteoporosis and arthritis, studies show that people with osteoarthritis are less likely to develop osteoporosis. On the other hand, people with rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to develop osteoporosis, especially as a secondary condition from medications used to treat RA.

Coping With Arthritis and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and arthritis do share many coping strategies. With either condition, people benefit from exercise programs that may include physical therapy and rehabilitation. In general, exercises that emphasize stretching, strengthening, posture, and range of motion are appropriate. These include low-impact aerobics, swimming, tai chi, and low-stress yoga. However, people with osteoporosis must take care to avoid activities that include bending forward from the waist, twisting the spine, or lifting heavy weights. People with arthritis must compensate for limited movement in arthritic joints. Always check with your physician to determine if a certain exercise or exercise program is safe for your specific medical situation.
Most people with arthritis will use pain management strategies at some time. This is not always true for people with osteoporosis. Usually, people with osteoporosis need pain relief when they are recovering from a fracture. In cases of severe osteoporosis with multiple spine fractures, pain control may also become part of daily life. Regardless of the cause, pain management strategies are similar for people with osteoporosis, OA, and RA. Pain management strategies are included in the following chart.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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