Decoding the jargon – your glossary and guide to terms your health professional may use when discussing your bone health.

.Have you ever walked away from an appointment with either your Doctor or Specialist and they’ve used words in conjunction with your osteoporosis diagnosis you’re just not sure of? We thought for Osteoporosis Awareness Month; we would help decode some of the terminology used.

Actonel: The brand name for risedronate. Medication for osteoporosis.

Alendronate: Medication used to treat osteoporosis. Part of the class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Sold under the brand name Fosamax and available as a generic.

Biomarker/s (aka signature molecule:  Substance in body fluids or tissues that indicates condition or disease. Bone biomarkers, including formation, resorption and regulator, are released during the bone remodelling processes.

Bisphosphonate: Class of chemical compounds used as osteoporosis medicines. They slow the reabsorption of minerals into the bloodstream.

Bone Density/Bone Mass: The amount of calcium and minerals in the bone tissue. Higher bone density indicates stronger bones; lower bone density indicates weaker bones.

Bone Mineral Content (BMC): Inorganic mineral mass per unit volume in the bone. It is correlated with bone mineral density.

Calcitonin: Hormone secreted by the thyroid gland and also given medically as a treatment for osteoporosis. It increases bone density and reduces pain associated with fractures. It stops bone calcium from being dissolved into the blood. Not used routinely for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Cartilage: Tissue in the skeletal system. Frequently found at the end of bones, it allows bones to rub against each other without damaging the hard parts of the bone. Cartilage is stretchy and tough and contributes to bone flexibility.

Cholecalciferol: Vitamin D3. Also called Calcitriol. It is important in the treatment of osteoporosis because it aids in intestinal absorption of calcium. Sometimes doctors give Vitamin D3 to increase the patient’s serum calcium levels.

Collagen: Type of protein that forms fibers and forms much of the body’s structure, including bones. There are type I, type 2, and type 3 collagen in the body. It is mostly type 1 in bones.

Colles fracture: Often called a wrist fracture. A break in the radius bone in the forearm rather than the not the carpal bones of the wrist. Sometimes a result of osteoporosis.

Compression fracture: An injury to the spine in which one or more vertebrae collapse. Although accidents can cause compression fractures, they are more commonly found in osteoporosis patients. It can be treated by vertebroplasty if the pain is severe. They are also treated by regular osteoporosis treatment.

Cushing syndrome: Cluster of symptoms including weak muscles, thin arms and legs, a fatty hump between the shoulders, and fat around the base of the neck. It is caused by excess cortisol in the body. Often co-morbid with osteoporosis.

Cortical bone: One of the two broad types of bone (the other is trabecular bone)  – The solid bone that is on the outside of bones.

DXA or DEXA: Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. Most often used diagnostic test for osteoporosis. Uses X-Rays at low intensity. Usually done on hip or spine, or wrist bones.

Estrogen: Group of body chemicals generally (although simplistically) considered the female sex hormone. In the context of osteoporosis, known for helping bone density stay high.

Endocrine: Refers to the glands that produce hormones

Evista: The brand name for raloxifene, a medicine used to treat osteoporosis.

FRAX: Stands for Fracture Risk Assessment.

FRAX Score: Number used to assess the risk of suffering a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. Factors in measured bone density in the femur as well as lifestyle and dimensions about the patient (e.g. age, height).

Fosamax: The brand name for Alendronate, a medicine used to treat osteoporosis.

Glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis (GIOP): A form of bone thinning that seems to be due to the use of steroid medications, although the pathology is unknown.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Treatment is sometimes given to women to increase estrogen levels after menopause. Among other goals, this therapy can slow the rate of bone loss. This treatment is not used as often as it once was. Also called estrogen replacement therapy.

Heel Test: Ultrasound screening of foot, hand, finger, or wrist to determine bone density.

Hypercalcemia: Medical condition where calcium levels in the bloodstream are higher than normal. If bad enough, calcium phosphate can crystalize out of solution and deposit in the body’s tissue, which can lead to further health concerns.

Hyperparathyroidism: Too much parathyroid hormone results in abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. This can cause bone resorption and osteoporosis, calcium deposits in the kidneys, and other health problems.

Hypocalcemia: Medical condition where calcium levels in the bloodstream are lower than usual.

Interleukins: Body chemicals that are part of the immune system. Play a part in bone resorption.

Kyphotic curve: Abnormal concave curving of the spinal cord. Also called hyperkyphosis, when the curvature occurs in the thoracic part of the spine – this is a sign of osteoporosis. It makes people look like they have a hump on their backs. The other spinal curve is called lordotic, but this type is generally not associated with osteoporosis.

Kyphoplasty: A treatment for kyphotic curves due to compression fractures. This procedure can stabilize fractures, relieve pain, and make the patient taller. See our page on kyphoplasty

Odontoclast: Type of osteoclast in the jaw involved in the remission of baby teeth

Ossification: The overall physiological process of cartilage converting into hard bone.

Osteoblastogenesis: Bone formation by deposition of minerals.

Osteoblasts: The builder cells in bone that collect minerals and secrete the bony mass.

Osteoclastogenesis: Bone resorption. A regular part of the bone remodelling process.

Osteoclastogenesis: The formation of osteoclasts in the bone tissue. A part of the bone remodelling process.

Osteoclasts: Cells that play an important part in living bone by dissolving bone minerals.

Osteocytes: Cells inside the ossified bone. Derived from osteoblasts and surrounded by minerals.

Osteoimmunology: Field of study concerned with the interaction between the immune system and the bone (skeletal) system.

Osteomalacia: Insufficient mineralization of bones, usually caused by low vitamin D levels.

Osteopenia: Lower than average bone density, but not so low that the patient is diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Osteopenic: Bone with a T-score between –1and –2.5

Osteoporosis: A clinical disease in which the patient’s bones become fragile and low density, resulting in increased fracture risk.

Osteoporotic: Bone with a T-score less than –2.5

Osteosarcopenia: Syndrome when a patient has osteoporosis (low bone density) and sarcopenia (low muscle mass).

Parathyroid hormone (PTH): Regulates the calcium level in the blood and hence plays a part in bone density and bone diseases. A synthetic parathyroid hormone, teriparatide, is used to treat osteoporosis.

Periosteum: Membrane that covers the outside of bones (except for the ends of long bones). The counterpart to endosteum.

Phosphate: A major bone mineral. It works together with the mineral calcium to build strong bones and teeth.

Progestin: Form of the hormone progesterone.

Prognosis: Likely outcome – a forecast- of a disease in a particular person

Raloxifene: A Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator medicine used to treat osteoporosis. Sold under the brand name is Evista.

Resorption: Dissolving of bony tissue out of the bone and into the bloodstream. The osteoclasts are bone cells that carry out this function.

Rickets: Aka osteomalacia. Insufficient mineralization of bones, usually caused by low vitamin D levels.

Risedronate: A bisphosphonate drug for osteoporosis sold under the name Actonel.

Risk factor: Anything that increases a person’s chances of developing a disease. Risk factors can include items beyond the patient’s control (age, parents’ health) and inside their control (alcohol consumption), etc.

Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs): A class of chemical compounds that works on estrogen receptors. They are used in the treatment of osteoporosis.

Spinal column: The spine or the backbone. It is made of 33 interlocking bones called vertebrae. The topmost section is the cervical, followed by the thoracic (longest section in the chest), the lumbar, sacrum, and the coccyx.

T-score: A number derived by comparing your DEXA bone densitometry test results to an average score for a healthy adult of your gender and race who has reached their peak bone mass. The T-score signifies how far your bones are from “normal.” The primary indicator in the diagnosis of osteoporosis today.

Thyroid hormone: A significant body hormone important in the regulation of metabolism. Too much can result in bone loss.

Trabecular bone: the hard spongy tissue on the inside of bones. Looks porous under a microscope. It contains marrow that makes red blood cells—osteogenic loading impacts this type of bone.

Ultrasound: Diagnostic system that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images. They are used in OsteoStrong centres as a screening assessment of bone health.

Vertebrae: Components of the spine and frequent trouble spots for patients with osteoporosis. There are 33 vertebrae.

Vertebroplasty: Surgical injection of cement to the spinal cord to stabilize fractures. It is often paired with kyphoplasty for the treatment of compression fractures.

Z-score: A numerical measure of bone density, indicating the number of standard deviations compared to the average bone mineral density for someone your age, gender, body type, and race. A key statistical metric in the diagnosis of osteoporosis.


If there’s a word you’re not sure of, reach out to your coaches to have a conversation. Knowledge is power, so informing yourself about all things bone health can assist in recovery.

Team OsteoStrong

Team OsteoStrong


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