What is osteopenia, and how can it lead to adult degenerative scoliosis?

Osteopenia Bones
Osteopenia is a condition where the bones of the human body lose some of their density, making them more fragile and leading to an increased risk of fractures. Osteopenia often occurs naturally with age and is particularly common amongst post-menopausal women. However, there are certain things that may make you more susceptible to osteopenia:
  • Excessive drinking
  • Smoking
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Coeliac disease
  • Low BMI
  • Certain medications
Osteopenia develops gradually and has few symptoms. Many people with osteopenia don’t notice the condition at all until a relatively minor impact results in broken bones, and for this reason, most cases are not diagnosed until a fracture occurs.

Osteopenia vs. Osteoporosis: What’s the Difference?

If you’re familiar with a condition called osteoporosis, all of the above may sound somewhat familiar. Given that both conditions are characterised by a reduction in bone density (usually occurring in later life), you may even be wondering if osteopenia is just another name for osteoporosis.
Well, you’re half right: osteopenia is really just a milder form of osteoporosis. If you have osteopenia, your bone mass has begun to decrease, but your condition is not severe enough to be called osteoporosis. Osteopenia sometimes progresses to the point of full-blown osteoporosis, but many osteopenia sufferers remain in that transitional stage – not every case of osteopenia develops into a case of osteoporosis.
Both osteopenia and osteoporosis are diagnosed using something called a DEXA scan. During a DEXA scan, X-rays are used to analyse your bone mineral density; your results are then compared to a healthy person of your age and sex to find your so-called ‘T score’.

What Your T Score Means

  • Higher than -1 SD: You do not have osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • -1 to -2.5 SD: You do not have osteoporosis, but you may be diagnosed with osteopenia.
  • Lower than -2.5 SD: You have osteoporosis.

Scoliosis Among Osteopenia / Osteoporosis Patients

Reduced bone density means weaker bones, and fractures aren’t necessarily the only thing that osteopenia / osteoporosis sufferers have to worry about. A spine that has been weakened by osteopenia is more likely to curve over time, and so osteopenia / osteoporosis patients are more likely to develop adult degenerative scoliosis than people with a healthy bone mineral density.
If you suffer from a curvature of the spine – whether it’s due to osteoporosis, osteopenia, or other factors entirely – please contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic today to find out about our effective non-surgical treatment courses. Our helpful team of experts will be happy to help you with your condition.