Osteoarthritis versus Osteoporosis

Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis… What is the difference?

Is joint pain holding you back and stopping you from doing the things you enjoy?

Do you have early-morning pain and stiffness that worsens with joint use?

Do you have local tenderness and/or soft tissue swelling?

Do you ask yourself if you’ll ever be able to move with ease again?

Do you feel like you are hunching over more?

Do you have brittle bones that easily break?


Osteoarthritis is an insidious chronic joint disease caused by the breakdown of cartilage, the firm rubbery tissue that cushions bones at the joints.  As the cartilage breaks down, changes occur in the underlying bone.  It begins the thicken and form the ugly, painful nodules which are so common with Osteoarthritis.

In addition to “wear and tear”, there are a number of possible triggering factors for Osteoarthritis.  “Something” starts irritating the joint to start this painful degenerative process.  Among others, these triggering factors may include:

  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Toxicity
  • Obesity
  • Stress

One of the most inflammatory things many people are exposed to is the food in their diet.  Food has the power to produce or reduce inflammation.  It is important to assess each case individually as what affects one person, may not affect another.  We are all unique.

Exercise, while often blamed for acute trauma and inflammation, is actually a powerful anti-inflammatory when performed regularly at a tolerated level.  The mild stress generated by exercise activates a range of responses that lead to reduced inflammation.

When we are in pain, the first thing that comes to mind is “pain relief”.  Unfortunately, the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals, whilst very effective initially, may also be associated with risks of side effects.  In addition, some research indicates that these substances may actually accelerate the progression of Osteoarthritis as they appear to inhibit cartilage repair.

To obtain cartilage repair in arthritic joints, both reduction of inflammation and enhancing the repair processes by various connective tissue cells, are the major therapeutic goals in both athletes and those with Osteoarthritis.  Although diet and exercise are very important in reducing inflammation, there are a number of nutritional natural medicines that have a long history of traditional use in reducing pain and swelling.  These supplements, in most instances, may be taken with your prescription medications.  Your Naturopath will take these into consideration with any treatment plan.  These natural medicines may:

  • Reduce the progression of joint inflammation and joint degradation;
  • Offer strong defence against ongoing damage; and
  • Activate beneficial enzymes which rebuild cartilage and collagen.


Osteoporosis occurs when there is a loss of calcium and other minerals from your bones.  This undermines normal bone structure and therefore, strength.  A reduction in mineral content is referred to as a loss of bone mineral density.  This results in porous, brittle bones that may be easily broken in a fall or merely carrying out everyday activities, such as lifting heavy shopping bags.

Osteoporosis is often called a “silent disease”.  There may be no indication that a loss of bone density is happening until a fracture occurs.  However, it is not only broken bones that are a concern… Reduced bone mineral density may also lead to significant pain, immobility and ultimately a loss of independence.

How do you maximise your bone density and reduce bone mineral losses?

Whilst you are growing, calcium and other minerals from your diet form the foundation of strong healthy bones.  Peak bone mass is usually being achieved in your 20s.  It is important to maintain a diet rich in calcium.  You may do this by incorporating dark leafy green vegetables, sardines, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy products, all of which offer excellent sources of calcium.  Ensuring that you get sufficient vitamin D through moderate sun exposure and/or supplementation will help support calcium absorption.  Don’t forget to add in regular weight bearing exercise which helps to promote bone density.  Put them all together and they create a solid foundation for skeletal health.

Your bone mineral density naturally begins to wane by your mid-30s.  However, poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake, as well as the onset of menopause in women, may all accelerate the process.  At this time, diet is more important than ever.  It is essential to ensure you are obtaining enough calcium to keep your bones strong. 

As you get older, it is not always possible to obtain your daily calcium needs through diet alone.  Fortunately, you may help support your bone density by using a highly absorbable form of calcium.  Not all forms found in “over the counter” products are beneficial for you.  Your Naturopath may help you find the right form of calcium for you as an individual.

There is a great deal you may do to support your bones and joints, and help prevent both Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis, even if your bone mineral density has already started to decline.  Speak to one of our dedicated Naturopaths today.  Let us help you support your bones so that you may live a longer, stronger life!

Disclaimer:  The advice on this website is of a general nature only and Nurtura Health expressly disclaims all liability arising out of the improper use of the information provided.  Nurtura Health actively discourages any self-diagnosis or self-medication.  Please consult your health practitioner regarding these important health issues.  All rights reserved.