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Osteoporosis and Chronic Stress

Medically reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Written by Laurie Berger
Updated on May 7, 2021

Living with osteoporosis can be stressful. Fractures, worries about falling, and decreasing mobility create high levels of stress on MyOsteoTeam, where more than 2,200 members report depression and anxiety.

“The stress just wreaks havoc on my body, especially my neck and down my back!” explained one member. Another said, “Osteoporosis does cause depression and anxiety. It forces us to make unwanted lifestyle changes and even give up some of the activities we enjoy." "Plus, there's always that nagging worry about a fracture,” shared another member.

Chronic, or long-term, persistent, psychosocial stress may actually contribute to bone loss. Stress hormones may impact bone mineral density (BMD), leading to increased risk for osteoporosis or making it worse for those who have it, according to a recent study. For some people, osteoporosis can create stress and depression, and lead to unhealthy coping habits.

“I can see why osteoporosis adds anxiety and depression,” said one woman. “We’re worried about breaking another bone, worried about what activities we can do, and we get depressed with all the unknowns – not knowing whether our bones can be improved, or which aspects of our lives we’ll have to give up. I’ve always been an equestrian and just gave up my horse. It's very depressing.”

Fear of Falling and Pain

Falling is the number one worry among members of MyOsteoTeam. “I’m still recovering from nine fractures after a fall. It’s so hard and very depressing,” shared one woman.

Pain from one or more fractures takes a heavy physical and emotional toll on members, and contributes to anxiety about fracture risk. “I’ve experienced anxiety and depression from hip pain that keeps me up at night. Sleeplessness is my [new normal] now,” explained one member. Another lamented, “I've given up all my physical pleasures due to pain.”

Members who’ve fallen - and fear another spill - have stopped enjoying their favorite activities or even leaving the house, which has increased their stress levels.

“Before my bone breaks and diagnosis, my main love was horseback riding,” said another equestrian member. “I now have a fear of falling and anxiety. I have to psych myself up to go out.”

She’s not alone. One member admitted, “I haven’t left home without a companion for about two years (first due to panic attacks and now fear of falling).” “You’re so right about anxiety making our condition worse,” added another. “Before my fall, I was running every morning and doing Power Pump classes three times a week. Now, they tell me I'm too fragile to do those things, and instead, to lift plastic drinking water bottles. Pathetic.”

Pushing oneself to get up, out, and moving again can reduce stress and depression as well as support bone density. One woman explained: “I broke three vertebrae in March. It was hard but I walked little by little and took pain meds. Now, I walk six kilometers with my dog until I can't handle the pain any longer.”

Depression and Mood Disorders

Pre-existing mental health conditions such as major depression disorder may also be a risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists both depression and eating disorders as diseases that may cause bone loss.

“I’ve lived with depression for years, now trying to cope with fractures of my vertebrae,” admitted a member of MyOsteoTeam. “I, too, have depression and an anxiety disorder. Stress from osteoporosis and several falls makes it worse,” said one woman. Another member shared: “I also suffer from depression and anxiety. Fracturing my spine did not help. I just want to get off my walker and live a somewhat normal life.”

Breaking the cycle of negative thinking helped one member decrease stress and depression around osteoporosis. “I was focusing on what I could no longer do, and it made me depressed, which creates another chain of issues,” she explained. “It’s perfectly understandable to have bad days and feel down. Let them happen and tell yourself, ‘Tomorrow will be good.’ Turn a negative into a little positive each day.”

Stress Reduction Tips for Osteoporosis

Lifestyle changes may help improve bone health and reduce psychological stress. Members of MyOsteoTeam share their tips:

Exercise

Regular weight-bearing exercise and physical activity in general may support bone mass and improve mental health. “I’ve been pretty good with minimal pain, as long as I keep moving,” shared one member. Another said, “Sitting too long is my enemy. I started only doing small amounts of exercise, then gradually increased. If our bones are supported by good strong muscles, the pain is less.”

Sleep

Pain and anxiety disrupts sleep, which can negatively impact your mood. “My doctor put me on Elavil (Amitriptyline) and it allows me to get seven or more hours of deep, restorative sleep now. My mood is improving and I wake up feeling relaxed and relatively pain free,” shared a MyOsteoTeam member.

Meditation

Members report that calming the mind also calms their body, which helps manage stress and pain. “Last year, I did a free 21-day meditation series. I found it centered my mind and gave me inner peace which helped me so much with all my pain, physically and emotionally,” shared one member.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Where it is legal, several members credit CBD with reducing stress. “It helps me with anxiety and pain and elevates my mood,” shared one member whose doctor prescribed it as an adjunct therapy. “I’m still taking Actonel (Risedronate) but discovered that CBD helps with inflammation throughout the body, so I’ve found relief from my tennis elbow, as well!”

Another member agreed: “I started taking it three weeks ago and it’s amazing for anxiety and panic attacks. It takes the edge off the pain. I take 10 drops in the morning and 10 at night. I was told the longer you take it the better it gets. Time will tell.”

Getting Support

Connecting with a community that understands the levels of stress that can come with osteoporosis is important. One member explained how it helped her: “There’s a lot of information and experiences shared on this site! I was anxious, but now I’ve made decisions which my doctor supports. I’m feeling more confident and less stressed!”

When you join MyOsteoTeam, you gain a community of more than 35,000 people living with osteoporosis. Members talk about a range of personal experiences including stress.

Here is a question-and-answer thread about stress:

Here are some conversations about stress:

How do you deal with stress related to osteoporosis? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or post on MyOsteoTeam.

References

Updated on May 7, 2021
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Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Laurie Berger has been a health care writer, reporter, and editor for the past 14 years. Learn more about her here.

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