Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine. People usually receive a diagnosis in childhood or early adolescence, but the condition can develop at any age.
Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mineral density. It causes weak, porous bones, meaning that a person has a higher risk of bone fractures.
As aging increases the risk of both conditions, they are common among older adults. Both conditions also affect the spine.
Due to these similarities, many people wonder whether scoliosis and osteoporosis are related. Here, we look at the possible links between the conditions, according to current research.
There’s some evidence that scoliosis is associated with lower bone density. However, it’s unclear whether the condition specifically leads to osteoporosis.
A 2021 study found no evidence that lumbar (lower back) scoliosis is related to bone density in the femoral neck. The femoral neck is located in the hip region.
More research is necessary to determine whether and how scoliosis may lead to low bone density and osteoporosis.
There’s stronger evidence to suggest that osteoporosis can cause scoliosis.
The reduced bone density in osteoporosis weakens the vertebrae in the spine. This increases the risk of a vertebral compression fracture, which happens when pressure causes a break in the vertebrae. This can lead to scoliosis, especially in older adults.
Additionally, a 2019 study refers to older research indicating that people with osteoporosis are more likely to develop age-related scoliosis.
Aging is a major risk factor for both scoliosis and osteoporosis. However, each condition also has its own set of risk factors.
Scoliosis risk factors include:
- being assigned female at birth
- family history of the condition
- physical abnormalities, like different leg lengths
- spinal injuries
Meanwhile, risk factors for osteoporosis
- being white or Asian
- family history of the condition
- early menopause
- low body weight, meaning less than 128 pounds
- sedentary lifestyle
- fractures after the age of 40 years
- smoking cigarettes
If you have risk factors for both conditions, it’s important to use caution as you get older. Not only can osteoporosis lead to scoliosis but it can also increase your risk of fractures.
It’s possible to reduce your risk of scoliosis and osteoporosis, even if you have a family history of either condition.
Prevention methods include:
- Nutritious diet: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. In turn, it may prevent scoliosis related to osteoporosis.
- Weight bearing exercise: Activities like weightlifting, hiking, jogging, walking, and tennis can help prevent weak bones. These activities can also prevent scoliosis from getting worse.
- Regular doctor visits: If you have osteoporosis, work with your doctor to prevent further bone loss. This will help lower the risk of scoliosis due to osteoporosis. It will also minimize the likelihood of fractures.
If you received a scoliosis diagnosis as a child or adolescent, it’s best to ask a doctor whether your curvature has become more severe and whether you need treatment.
It is also advisable to let a doctor know if you have a family history of osteoporosis. They might wish to perform certain tests to determine your risk.
In addition, consult a doctor if you have:
- new and unexplained back pain
- pain after an injury or accident, like a fall
- newly uneven shoulders or hips
- shortness of breath
- difficulty walking
Below are the answers to some common questions about scoliosis and osteoporosis.
Can osteoporosis cause scoliosis?
Osteoporosis may increase the risk of scoliosis by changing the structure of the spine. Specifically, osteoporosis can weaken the bones in the spine, potentially causing a curve.
Can scoliosis cause osteoporosis?
It’s unclear whether scoliosis leads to osteoporosis. Some evidence suggests that the curve that occurs in scoliosis reduces bone density, but more research is necessary to confirm this.
Do people with scoliosis or osteoporosis have an increased risk of the other condition?
Scoliosis and osteoporosis may lead to different complications.
In some cases, scoliosis may cause back pain or trouble breathing. That’s because the curved spine might cause the rib cage to become misshapen, which can adversely affect the lungs and diaphragm.
Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures, which can also cause pain. This pain will appear at the site of the injury.
How do scoliosis and osteoporosis affect your bones?
Scoliosis may lead to decreased bone density, while osteoporosis involves low bone density. Having low bone density can increase your risk of fractures.
Scoliosis and osteoporosis both affect the spine. Scoliosis causes an abnormal curve in the spine, and osteoporosis causes weak bones, including those in the spine.
Osteoporosis can lead to scoliosis, especially in older adults. That’s because osteoporosis decreases bone density and strength in the spine, potentially leading to a curve.
Regardless of your age, you can also reduce the risk of both conditions by adopting certain lifestyle measures, like regularly exercising and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet.
If you already have either condition, it’s important to work with a doctor to slow down the progression.