Fibromyalgia may raise the risk of osteoporosis. A condition characterized by widespread pain, fibromyalgia can result in limited mobility and lack of sunlight exposure – factors that increase the likelihood of osteoporosis in a patient.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by the loss of bone mass. Factors that contribute to bone strength include exercising, eating calcium-rich foods, and getting adequate amounts of vitamin D, which is easily absorbed through sun exposure.
In the latest study, researchers evaluated vitamin D serum levels and bone mineral density in female fibromyalgia patients and healthy women.
The researchers found that women with fibromyalgia had significantly lower serum vitamin D levels, compared to the women in the control group. Fibromyalgia patients with low serum vitamin D levels also experienced greater confusion, impaired short memory, mood disturbances, palpitations, restless leg syndrome, and sleep disturbances.
Additionally, bone mineral density was also found to be lower in fibromyalgia patients.
The researchers concluded that fibromyalgia is a risk factor for developing osteoporosis.
Effects of fibromyalgia on bone health
As mentioned, fibromyalgia may impact bone health, because the condition negatively impacts a person’s ability to move, exercise, and head outdoors to be exposed to the sun, the source of vitamin D.
Furthermore, digestion in fibromyalgia patients is often impaired, meaning that patients don’t properly absorb the nutrients they need in order to maintain bone health. This causes many patients to seek out additional supplementation to make up for any nutrient deficiencies.
For these reasons, fibromyalgia becomes a risk factor for osteoporosis. The good news is, by properly managing fibromyalgia and taking the necessary steps to maintain bone health, a patient may lower their risk of developing osteoporosis.
Treatment options for dealing with fibromyalgia and osteoporosis
Treating fibromyalgia can be difficult as its exact cause is unknown. Therefore, the goal of fibromyalgia treatment is symptom management. A doctor may prescribe analgesics, or painkillers, to address fibromyalgia. However, there is a risk of developing addiction to these drugs, so doctors may recommend this option with caution. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also be taken for pain management, but once again long-term use of these drugs can yield unwanted side effects. In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed as well.
Some alternative and complementary therapies and treatments for fibromyalgia include massages, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, movement therapies, and chiropractic.
Those at an increased risk for bone fractures may get a prescription for medications like Alendronate (Fosamax), Risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia), Ibandronate (Boniva), and Zoledronic acid (Reclast). Unfortunately, as with many medications, these can cause unwanted side effects, too, including nausea and heartburn-like symptoms. As long as medications are taken as directed, you can minimize side effects.
Hormone therapy may also be used to treat osteoporosis, as one of the risk factors for the bone disease is having low levels of sex hormones. Estrogen may help maintain bone density, but it can also come with complications, including the risk of blood clots, endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and possibly heart disease.
There are some alternative remedies for osteoporosis – for example, soy proteins, which act similarly to bone tissue. Some studies have found a reduction in bone fractures among Asian postmenopausal women who consume soy. A word of caution: Soy should be limited or avoided in women with a family history of breast cancer. Speak to your doctor about adding soy into your diet or as a supplement.
Your doctor will help you decide on the type of treatment that can offer you the greatest improvement in living with either condition.