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Bone, Muscle, and Joint Problems


Prevention - When to Call a Health Professional

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes a person's bones to become so weak that they can break during normal daily activities. Osteoporosis affects millions of older adults in North America. Women are 5 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men are.

Osteoporosis is more common after menopause, when estrogen levels decline. Risk factors for osteoporosis include slender body frame, Asian or European heritage, family history of osteoporosis, and getting little or no weight-bearing exercise. Women who smoke or drink are also at greater risk. Elevated thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) may also cause osteoporosis.


Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic muscle and soft tissue pain and tenderness on both sides of the body, above and below the waist. Fibromyalgia does not damage the body, destroy the joints, or cause any internal organ problems, but the pain may be severe enough to interfere with work and other activities.

The cause of fibromyalgia is not known. People who have fibromyalgia have many tender spots in specific areas of their bodies (trigger points). They often have trouble sleeping because of the pain. There may also be stiffness, weakness, and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men.

Regular exercise, such as walking, biking, or swimming, is the cornerstone of treatment for fibromyalgia. Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help treat the symptoms. If stress makes your symptoms worse, See Relaxation Skills.

Osteoporosis usually develops over many years without symptoms. The first signs of osteoporosis include loss of height, developing a curved upper back (dowager's hump), back pain, or broken bones.


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Weakening bones are a natural part of growing older. But if you start healthy habits early in life, you may be able to delay the development of osteoporosis.

  • Get regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, climbing stairs, dancing, or weight lifting. Weight-bearing exercise helps keep bones strong. See Fitness.

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Both are needed for building healthy, strong bones. See Calcium for tips on getting more calcium in your diet. You can get a boost of vitamin D by drinking fortified milk or by spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun each day. (If you have dark skin, you will need more time in the sun.) Take supplements of calcium and vitamin D if you think you are not getting enough in your diet.

  • Don't smoke, and drink alcohol only in moderation (1 drink per day), if at all.

  • Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine in coffee and soft drinks increases calcium loss from your body and puts you at risk for osteoporosis.

  • During menopause, estrogen therapy helps prevent osteoporosis. See "Hormone Therapy" on See Hormone Therapy.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you think you have a broken bone; if you notice swelling; or if you cannot move a part of your body normally.

  • If you have sudden, severe pain or problems bearing weight on the injured part of your body.

  • If you notice that one of your arms or legs is misshapen. This may mean you have a broken bone.

  • If you want to discuss your risk for developing osteoporosis.

    If you are at risk for osteoporosis and are nearing menopause, talk with your doctor about estrogen or hormone replacement therapy. It is the most effective way to prevent osteoporosis. See Menopause See Hormone Therapy.


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