Osteoporosis

Can medical cannabis help patients suffering from symptoms of Osteoporosis? Find out more below. 

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a medical condition characterized by decreased bone density and quality, leading to fragile and brittle bones that are more susceptible to fractures. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough new bone tissue or reabsorbs too much old bone.

What causes it?

Several factors can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, including:

  1. Aging: As people age, their bodies naturally lose bone density and become more susceptible to osteoporosis.
  2. Genetics: A family history of osteoporosis increases the risk of developing the condition.
  3. Hormonal changes: Changes in hormone levels, such as a decrease in estrogen during menopause or a reduction in testosterone in men, can lead to bone loss.
  4. Lifestyle factors: Lifestyle factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet low in calcium and vitamin D can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  5. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and inflammatory bowel disease, can lead to bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  6. Medications: Certain medications, such as glucocorticoids, anticonvulsants, and some cancer treatments, can increase the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.

How common is it?

Osteoporosis is quite common, particularly among older adults and women. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 200 million people worldwide are affected by osteoporosis. An estimated 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. In the United States, it is estimated that around 10 million people have osteoporosis, with another 44 million having low bone density, putting them at increased risk of developing the condition.

Are there types/stages?

There are several different types and stages of osteoporosis, including:

  1. Primary osteoporosis is the most common type of osteoporosis and is related to the natural aging process.
  2. An underlying medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, or inflammatory bowel disease causes secondary osteoporosis.
  3. Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis: This rare type occurs in children and adolescents and has no apparent underlying cause.
  4. Postmenopausal osteoporosis: This type of osteoporosis occurs in women after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen levels.
  5. Senile osteoporosis: This type of osteoporosis occurs in people over 70.

In terms of stages, osteoporosis can be categorized based on bone density measurements using a DXA scan tool. The World Health Organization has defined three stages of osteoporosis based on T-score measurements:

  1. Average bone density: T-score of -1.0 or higher.
  2. Osteopenia: T-score between -1.0 and -2.5.
  3. Osteoporosis: T-score of -2.5 or lower.

Signs & Symptoms

In its early stages, osteoporosis may not produce any symptoms, but as the condition progresses, the following signs and symptoms may occur:

  1. Back pain: Osteoporosis can cause fractures of the vertebrae, which can lead to severe back pain.
  2. Loss of height: As the vertebrae become compressed and weakened, a person with osteoporosis may lose height over time.
  3. Stooped posture: Compression fractures in the spine can cause a person to develop a stooped or hunched posture.
  4. Increased risk of fractures: Osteoporosis weakens the bones, making them more susceptible to fractures, even from minor falls or injuries.
  5. Brittle nails: In some cases, osteoporosis can cause nails to become brittle and break easily.
  6. Tooth loss: Osteoporosis can lead to tooth loss, as it can cause the bones in the jaw to weaken and become less dense.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Doctors can diagnose osteoporosis using a variety of tests, including:

  1. Bone density test: The most common test used to diagnose osteoporosis is a bone density test, usually done using a DXA scan. This test measures bone density at various points in the body, such as the spine, hips, and wrists.
  2. X-rays: X-rays can detect bone fractures or signs of bone loss in the spine.
  3. Blood and urine tests: These tests can measure calcium levels, vitamin D, and other vital nutrients for bone health.

Once a diagnosis of osteoporosis has been made, treatment options may include the following:

  1. Lifestyle changes: Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, engaging in weight-bearing exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can help to slow or prevent further bone loss.
  2. Medications: Medications are available to treat osteoporosis, including bisphosphonates, hormone replacement therapy, and selective estrogen receptor modulators.
  3. Fall prevention measures: People with osteoporosis are at increased risk of falls and fractures, so it is essential to prevent falls, such as removing tripping hazards from home and using assistive devices such as canes or walkers.
  4. Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a fracture or stabilize the spine.

Treatment options will depend on the severity of the osteoporosis, the person’s overall health, and other factors. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for your situation.

Can medical marijuana help?

There is currently limited research on the potential benefits of medical cannabis for treating osteoporosis. Some early studies have suggested that the cannabinoids found in cannabis may help to stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.

While medical cannabis is not a first-line treatment for osteoporosis, it can help with inflammation and pain, especially when taken with other treatments, such as medication and lifestyle changes, that are effective in slowing or preventing bone loss.

Suppose you are considering using medical cannabis to treat osteoporosis. In that case, it is essential to speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is a safe and appropriate option for you. They can also help you understand the potential risks and benefits and guide dosing and administration.

Last Updated: April 6, 2023

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