Osteopenia - Is Treatment Necessary?

If your doctor diagnoses you with osteopenia, is it time to panic? Do you need treatment? Here are a few opinions on the topic.

The definition of osteopenia is bone density that is lower than normal but not low enough to be called osteoporosis. Typically, a T score of -2.5 and lower is classified as osteoporosis, while -2.4 and higher is classifed as osteopenia. There's a lot of controversy over osteopenia. Many people claim it is an invented disease and say it's wrong to place pre-menopausal women with osteopenia on osteoporosis drugs such as Fosamax, especially since these drugs can possibly lead to serious side effects. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteopenia, is it time to panic? Here are a few opinions on the topic:

Because the term “osteopenia” is not useful as a diagnosis and can actually be harmful, I am on a personal crusade to eliminate it from the bone density lexicon. -- Nelson B. Watts, MD, Director, University of Cincinnati Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center
"I've seen patients who come in scared that they will become disabled soon because they have this 'disease' called osteopenia, when in fact they are normal for their age." -- Dr. Steven Cummings, epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Osteopenia ... is just another invented illness. In fact, little more than a decade ago, it didn't even exist ... It's another situation in which a bunch of experts got together, set some arbitrary guidelines, and bingo! Millions of people who were healthy the day before woke up with a disease. -- Dr. Julian Whitaker
Osteopenia, however, is not a disease or even a true diagnosis. It merely indicates a state of relative low-side bone mass. You could have "osteopenia" because you never developed a high peak bone mass in your youth. It does not have to mean that you are currently losing bone. You simply could have a low-side bone density. -- Susan Brown, Ph.D.

Filed under Osteopenia | Comments (13)


This is very interesting. I have a friend who has received a diagnosis of osteopenia of the spine and she is terrified. Her doctor wants her on Fosamax and I'm trying to get her to do some research before she does something like that. Doctors scare you to death and then get huffy if you don't do exactly what they say.

I also have been diagnosed with osteopenia. I am 57. My doctor prescribed Fosamx. I read up on it. I called the doctor and told him that I was uncomfortable taking the drug. He prescribed another with the same side effects. Only was half the mgs. I told him i still wasn't comfortable with that. And why couldn't i exercize more and take more calcium and vit.D instead. He finally said ok and i'd have another bone density test in 2 years. Why didn't he tell me that in the first place. I swear that some doctors are in cahoots with the drug companies. What are your thoughts?

I would tell anyone to stay well clear of Fossamax. I took it for 5 weeks and ended up in hospital for a week with gastric erosion. It has taken at least 8 weeks for my stomach to return to normal. I have now been offered a drug called Strontium, but I must admit that I am very wary of trying anything else.


Strontium is an element like Calcium and Magnesium. I have heard of it being used for bone density.
However, I was taking Fosamax, and think it caused gastric distress--I was on Zantac twice a day to help that AFTER I quit Fosamax.
I was diagnosed with mild osteopenia of the neck of the femur only. But I also am on methotrexate for RA, so that may be why the rheumatologist wanted me on Fosamax. A doctor I saw 2 years ago didn't think that mild osteopenia in the neck of the femur was any problem and told me to continue what I was doing and what I was doing was taking half the Calcium and D (600 mg) and weight bearing exercises. And eating dairy products.
Yes, it may be that the drug companies give doctors a rake off for getting people on the drugs. I thought I was having trouble with the methotrexate, and had liver/kidney tests afterr passing blood in my urine. I still think it was the Fosamax.
Friends tell me they cannot take it and are taking Evista and Miacalcin. But if I didn't need to take it, I sure would prefer the exercise and Ca + Vitamin D. But you also have to take Magnesium.

My dr. put me on Actonel after being diagnosed with osteopenia. He said the Arimadex I am taking following breast cancer can thin bones. I took Actonel for three weeks and each time had fairly severe back pain and back stiffness as bad as when I strained a muscle several years ago.

I have had Osteopenia since I was a child, and I am in my 50's now. They didn't have a "medical name" for it back then. They just said "You have skinny bones". No matter how much weight I gain my ankles and wrists remain small and thin. I had a bone density test, which showed Osteopenia. That is when my condition finally got a name. I do not take anything yet. I just wanted to let you know, that some people have this since they are young. I have.

Please check into all the drugs recommended before taking any. They cause many problems. Try all natural first with exercise and supplements. I have problems from low thyroid and now have osteopenia. I use youngevity products and have cured other ailments from skin to acid reflux. I will be trying their calcium supplements next. Good luck to all.

I, too, have had "skinny bones" since I was a child in WWII England. I am now 67, have always been athletic, have had several quite serious sports' related injuries, but NEVER ANY BROKEN BONES! This "osteopenia-craze," it seems to me, is just another way to "invalid-ate" women, especially older women who are just in the process of becoming persons after having been wife-ciphers and mother-ciphers all our lives, and, oh, by the way, to make money for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Take heart, all you older women! I have always lived "on the edge" physically, but I have NEVER taken any calcium supplements or any drugs for "bone density" and I do not have osteo-anything except a little arthritis, which, by the way HAS NOT INCREASED IN THE LAST 20 YEARS! NUTRITION! NUTTRITION! NUTRITION!

What great comments. They have put my mind at ease. I am only now taking a Calcium/magnesium/Vit D supplement as insurance for the future. I am lucky to be on no medications of any sort at age mid 60s. And do have mild controlled Arthritis. I am vegetarian and firmly believe that nutrition is the key to long and healthy life. We live too short and die too long.

Thank you all for your comments. I was diagnosed with borderline Osteopenia a few weeks ago & my doctor is suggesting 1200 mg calcium, 400 mg Vitamin D and weight bearing exercises. After reading some of your responses related to drug interaction, I was so glad my doctor recommended natural ways to treat this and I won't be taking any of the prescribed drugs. I just wish all the doctors would get on board with natural remedies instead of all these side effect drugs that cost a fortune.

Thank you all for your comments,I have a test result diagnosed Osteopenia. tomorrow I'm going to the doctor"I wonder " what medication she will subscrive? I will let you know!

I'm 40 years old...a bone density test recently revealed osteopenia. Apparently, this is a side effect of long term use of depo provera (birth control shot), which I took for about 5 years. The doctor that read my results neither prescribed medication nor gave me advice, other than to change my method of birth control.
I have done some research and it seems like osteopenia is a big name for something that can be corrected in an uninvasive manner. From the information I have gathered, it can be treated with supplements and exercise.
My sypathy to the people that have had devastating side effects from taking drugs.
Best wishes!

I have just returned from the doctor who said I have very low vitamin d it was 13 and the average is between 20 and 60, He has prescribed some alpha block tablets for a month and a half. But he has said I have osteopenia. I have been suffering for 5 months in my left arm and shoulder with pain and now I have pains in the right arm and knee. Will this improve do you think? and will this prevent me getting osteperosis later on. Karen


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