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Reviewed: May 2009
Osteoporosis and arthritis are easy to confuse. This fact sheet explains how they are alike and how they differ.
Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. Osteoporosis is called the "silent disease" because bone is lost with no symptoms. You may not know you have osteoporosis until a strain, bump, or fall causes a bone to break.
There is no cure for osteoporosis, but there are ways to prevent and treat the disease. They include:
Arthritis affects the joints and nearby tissues. Joints are places in the body where bones meet, such as the elbows and knees. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are sometimes confused because their names sound the same. But these illnesses have different:
People with OA do not often have osteoporosis. Because some of the medicines used to treat RA cause bone loss, people with RA may get osteoporosis. Bone loss in RA may also occur as a direct result of the disease.
If you have osteoporosis or arthritis, exercise can help. It can build strength, improve posture, and increase range of motion. Some examples are:
People with osteoporosis should try not to bend forward, twist the spine, or lift heavy weights. People with arthritis need to learn ways to cope with joints that don't move well and may be unstable. It is important to check with your doctor to learn what types of exercise are safe for you.
Most people with arthritis have pain every day. But people with osteoporosis often only need pain relief if they break a bone. Ways to manage pain are similar for people with osteoporosis, OA, and RA and include pain medications, certain types of exercise, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.
This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was developed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
For updates and for any questions about any medications you are taking, please contact
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Toll Free: 888–INFO–FDA (888–463–6332)
For additional information on specific medications, visit Drugs@FDA at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda. Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products.