Common Osteoporosis Terms

Pam Flores @phflores Health Guide
  • Are you confused with some of the terminology associated with your recent diagnosis of osteoporosis?  If so, here’s a list of common osteoporosis terms you should know.


    DXA (Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry)

    DXA is the gold standard for measuring bone mass.  This test will measure the amount of bone you have in your hip and spine. Early testing can help to prevent or treat bone loss.  This test is used to detect low bone density and osteoporosis.



    Osteoporosis means “porous bone”.  As we age our bone becomes more porous resulting in a loss of bone structure which can lead to a fracture.  Osteoporosis occurs when the body removes more bone than it replaces during the remodeling process.

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    Fractures can occur at the hip, spine, wrist and other bones in the skeleton.



    Osteopenia means you have lower than normal bone mass.  Osteopenia is a category of bone loss that has not yet reached the osteoporosis stage.  Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disorder where osteopenia can be normal age-related bone loss.  When your T-scores are between -1.0 and -2.5 you are in the osteopenia category. 



    A T-score is a number used to compare the amount of bone density you have with a healthy young adult.  T- scores are used for post-menopausal women and men over 50.  T-scores are the results you get when having a DXA scan to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis.

    Scores of -1.0 and above indicate normal bone density
    Scores between -1.0 and -2.5 indicate osteopenia (low bone density)
    Scores below -2.5 indicate osteoporosis.   



    A Z-score compares the amount of bone you have with someone of your age, gender and weight.  These scores are used for pre-menopausal women and men under the age of 50 only.  When you have a DXA scan done to check the condition of your bones, this is one of the numbers provided, but it should only be used for young women and men under 50.


    Fragility Fracture

    A fragility fracture is any fall from a standing height or less, that results in a fracture. Our bodies should be able to sustain a fall from this height, without a fracture, unless there is some underlying cause to suspect a bone disorder, like osteoporosis or osteopenia that weakens our bone structure.  Other types of fragility fractures are those that occur from minor body movement, like sneezing, coughing, stretching beyond you arm’s length and rolling over in bed. 


    Weight Bearing Exercise

    This form of exercise is recommended for building and maintaining bone density. Weight bearing exercise is any exercise you do while upright and bearing the weight of your body like, walking, running and stair climbing.  All these exercises allow you to move against gravity to strengthen your skeleton.


    Bone Remodeling

    Bone remodeling is the ongoing process of bone formation (building) and bone resorption (breakdown) in our bodies.  When resorption exceeds formation the remodeling process is no longer in sync and you can be diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, due to this loss of bone.


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    Once you’ve sustained a spinal compression fracture, one option to repair this is a procedure called kyphoplasty.  A balloon is inserted into the vertebra and inflated to restore the height; bone cement is used to fill this space. This procedure can help with the pain of a spinal compression fracture and possibly prevent kyphosis which is the forward rounding of the spine.  


    Bone Mineral Density (BMD)

    When you have a DXA scan you will also receive a print out with information on it about the status of your bones.  One of the results you’ll receive is a BMD score, which is a calculation of the amount of minerals in your bones.  These results will tell your doctor if your bones are thinning and if you are at high risk for a fracture and whether you should start treatment.




    Learn About Osteoporosis, The National Osteoporosis Foundation, Retrieved April 29, 2014.





Published On: April 30, 2014