Contact Us

What is Osteopenia?

You’ve probably heard of osteoporosis – but what about osteopenia? 


We talk through this lesser known bone density disease, its causes, and how you can prevent it.

What is Osteopenia?

How does osteopenia differ from osteoporosis?

Bone mass and bone mineral density declines naturally as we age. Osteopenia is a medical condition in which your bone mineral density is lower than the average person, but not low enough to be classed as osteoporosis.

Osteopenia is the stage before osteoporosis, but a diagnosis of the first doesn’t always lead to the latter.

Typical internal bone structure is similar to that of a honeycomb – rigid densely-packed layers with tiny spaces that give bones their strength. But when osteopenia develops, the holes in the structure become larger, leading to weaker bones which are more susceptible to fractures. 

In osteoporosis, this degradation of bone continues to a more serious degree. In some cases, even the slightest knock can cause bones to break.¹

How is osteopenia diagnosed?

Osteopenia is diagnosed with a dual X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, scan.

DEXA scans are the gold standard for measuring bone density, recognised in the UK by the NHS and Royal Osteoporosis Society. 

The scan uses X-ray technology with very low radiation exposure, much less than other X-rays, MRIs or CT scans, and even less than a standard long-haul flight.²

Results from a DEXA scan are given in the form of a T-score, which compares your bone density to that of a healthy 30-year-old. The lower the score, the more porous your bone.³

A T-score between +1 and -1 indicates normal bone density; between -1 and -2.5 indicates osteopenia. Anything below this shows significant bone loss and is diagnosed as osteoporosis. 

Learn more about DEXA scans and what to expect in our complete guide. 

Why is it important to treat osteopenia early?

Osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease – deteriorating bones aren’t something that can be felt, and you may only become aware you have osteoporosis after you’ve already suffered a fracture.

Fractures can take a long time to recover from, and some struggle to fully regain mobility, especially when they’re older.

Bones usually reach peak strength and density between the ages of 20 and 30. After that, the number of cells that act to rebuild bone (osteoblasts) decreases, and the overall population of cells that break down bone (osteoclasts) increases, leading to rapid bone loss.

And so, if osteoblasts are already struggling to maintain normal bone density due to their depleting numbers, they are going to have an even harder time trying to rebuild broken bone.

That’s why it’s important to take action as soon as osteopenia is detected. With proper intervention, bone loss can be slowed or even reversed, preventing needless fractures or progression to osteoporosis.

Prevention and treatment 

Certain lifestyle choices can accelerate the process of bone loss. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Poor diet that does not include enough calcium or vitamin D
  • Not getting enough exercise

Therefore in order to strengthen bones and slow osteopenia, a healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise, is recommended. 

Exercise needs to be weight-bearing, which is any activity where your feet and legs are supporting you – for example walking, running or dancing.

Osteopenia can also be treated with drugs, but many clinicians are hesitant about medicating people with the condition. If your fracture risk is low, pharmacological intervention may do more harm than good, potentially introducing side effects.

Natural bone strengthening with Marodyne LiV

Our Marodyne Low Intensity Vibration (LiV) device is medically certified to combat osteopenia and prevent osteoporosis, and has no known side effects or contraindications – supported by decades of research

The gentle vibrations encourage osteoblasts to work, to grow and strengthen bones. 

Using the device alongside positive lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise regime can greatly improve and maintain bone density. 

Find out more about Marodyne LiV


References / Sources

1. Osteoporosis (2022) National Institute on Aging. 

2. Mettler, F.A. et al. (2008) ‘Effective doses in radiology and Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine: A Catalog’, Radiology, 248(1), pp. 254–263. 

3. Osteopenia: When you have weak bones, but not osteoporosis (2021) Harvard Health. 

4. Corrado A, Cici D, Rotondo C, Maruotti N, Cantatore FP (2020) Molecular Basis of Bone Aging. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 

5. Clark D, Nakamura M, Miclau T, Marcucio R. (2017) Effects of Aging on Fracture Healing. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 15(6):601-608. 

6. Eriksen EF. Treatment of osteopenia (2012) Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 13(3):209-23.

Enjoyed this article?

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive more articles like this straight to your inbox every month.