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Bone and Joint Health

Your skeleton and joints are constantly changing. As you get older, this process becomes more unbalanced. This can possibly result in osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Bones with Osteoporosis

Throughout your life, your bones undergo a remodeling process. This means old bones are broken down. Then, new bone forms to replace it. Bone loss happens progressively with aging. However, it accelerates when women go through menopause and produce less estrogen.

Bones with osteoporosis have lower density or strength. The remodeling process is off-balance. Bones become fragile and more likely to break.

As your body's natural remodeling process becomes unbalanced with age, osteoporosis is more likely to occur. Old bone continues to break down. However, with osteoporosis, there is less new bone built to replace it. This results in low bone density. It leaves bones fragile and more likely to fracture.

Menopause and Osteoporosis

Older women may have issues with osteoporosis. Estrogen highly affects the rate of bone loss. This is why osteoporosis is most common in postmenopausal women. Estrogen helps regulate the bone remodeling process. However, as women go through menopause, estrogen levels decline. This affects the balance of bone-removing cells and bone-building cells. Weak bones can cause great injury late in life. That is why it is important to have your bone health checked after 50.

Measuring Your Bone Mineral Density

It is recommended that postmenopausal women over 50 get their bones tested. The main test for osteoporosis is a bone mineral density test. Bone mineral density is how much bone mineral, such as calcium, is in your bones. Low bone density means your bones are more porous, or airy. Your doctor can give you a bone mineral density scan. He or she may also send you to a separate location to get one. Depending on where you live, your health plan may help set up an in-home bone scan.

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis

At first, learning how to manage RA might feel like a challenge.

But understanding your diagnosis can help you take control of your health. There is no cure for RA. However, a number of treatment options can help you manage pain and stay active. Talk to your doctor. Learn about these treatments.

It’s important to begin treatment soon after diagnosis. This can help prevent long-term damage to your joints and improve your overall health.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Targets the Joints

In most cases, RA is a long-term condition. It causes swelling in the joints. This leads to pain and stiffness. This can make it hard to move or complete daily tasks.

Each joint in the body is where the ends of two bones meet. Cartilage connects the bones and synovium surrounds each joint. This is a type of tissue that helps the bones move smoothly at that joint.

With RA, the synovium becomes swollen and thick. This damages the cartilage and bone. It also weakens the nearby muscles. It also weakens the tendons that connect the muscles to the bone. This makes it hard to move. In some cases, severe swelling can make the joints crooked.

RA usually affects the small joints in the hands and feet on both sides of the body. But it can affect many joints, including:

  • Ankles
  • Elbows
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists

Common Treatments

Diagnosing RA requires:

  • A physical exam,
  • Possible blood tests
  • Scans like X-rays, MRI or ultrasound

Once diagnosed, treatments for RA aim to:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Ease symptoms like pain or swelling
  • Prevent long-term joint damage

No single treatment works for all patients. Many people may change their treatment at least once. A disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) is usually the first treatment prescribed for RA.

People with RA can do a lot to manage it. Those with RA can have a good quality of life. However, if you have RA you must act on it. It is important to take all medications as prescribed. It is also important to take control and speak up. Tell your doctor if your drugs cause any side effects or problems.

Damp and cold weather may cause stiffness and swelling in your joints.

Bone health is of great importance, especially later in life. Osteoporosis breaks bones down. While common, osteoporosis can be prevented.

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Last Updated On: 12/4/2020