Five common myths about osteoporosis

19 April 2024

Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break1. It develops slowly over time and although there’s no cure, treatment centres on strengthening bones and preventing falls.

Our guide to Osteoporosis and bone health provides a more complete overview, but this article will focus on addressing some common osteoporosis myths. Because, despite the fact that it’s thought to affect around 3.5 million people in the UK2, there are still a number of misconceptions about osteoporosis.

Let’s debunk five of the most common osteoporosis myths and examine the truth behind them.

1. Osteoporosis is painful

You might assume a condition that weakens the bones would be accompanied by pain or persistent aching. In fact, osteoporosis itself isn’t usually painful. It’s when a bone breaks or becomes fractured that the condition becomes painful. It is therefore possible for people to live pain-free with osteoporosis, if they do not fracture a bone.

2. There’s nothing I can do to prevent osteoporosis

While it’s true that our bones naturally lose density with age and osteoporosis has no known cure, there are still things we can do to slow the process.

Consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D – either through your diet or by taking supplements – is vital to supporting bone strength and density.

>Take a look at our recipe hub for inspiration

Regular exercise is also a must when it comes to maintaining healthy bones – it also helps strengthen muscles and improve balance and coordination, which can help prevent the kind of fall that could lead to broken bones later in life.

>Read more on exercises to improve your balance and coordination

In particular, muscle-strengthening exercises which include activities where you move your body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity can help.

For example:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands
  • Using weight machines
  • Lifting your own body weight3

And, as with so many health-related topics, bone health can be improved by giving up smoking and cutting down on alcohol.

There are also plenty of medications that can help slow the rate our bones are broken down, so there are plenty of ways we can treat, prevent or slow the onset of osteoporosis.

3. Only women get it

For women, oestrogen levels are important to bone health. So, because the body stops producing oestrogen at menopause, it’s true to say that osteoporosis is more common in women. In fact, it’s thought that one in two women over 50 will break a bone because of it.2

But anyone can get osteoporosis, so to say only women get it would be a huge misconception. While women are around four times more likely to develop it,4 one in five men over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture because of osteoporosis.5

4. Only older people get it

Bone density deteriorates with age, so getting older is one of the main risk factors. While it would be fair to say it’s more common in older people, there are a number of other risk factors that apply to younger people. That means anyone can be affected.

Risk factors include:

  • a family history of bone-related disease,
  • being underweight,
  • going through menopause under the age of 45,
  • having a hysterectomy,
  • heavy smoking,
  • and alcohol consumption.

5. Broken bones are the only risk

Broken or fractured bones are the main risk, yes. But there are many potential knock-on effects. Some broken bones can prevent movement and impact posture. Spinal injuries can affect height or cause long-term back pain.

Bone damage can also lead to inactivity, which can have a very negative impact on our overall health – both mental and physical.

It’s never too late to look after your bones

Another important fact about osteoporosis, and bone health in general, is that it’s never too late to start looking after your bones.

While osteoporosis is a common disease with no cure, there’s plenty you can do to strengthen your bones and slow the onset of the condition – whatever your age.

For more details on taking care of your bones – along with even more bone-related myths – check out our guide to Understanding bone health.


  1. Osteoporosis – NHS
  2. Women’s Health Strategy needs to go big on osteoporosis emergency affecting one in two women over 50 - Royal Osteoporosis Society
  3. Osteoporosis Exercise for Strong Bones – Bone health and osteoporosis foundation
  4. What is osteoporosis? - Versus Arthritis
  5. Osteoporosis and men - Royal Osteoporosis Society