Osteoporosis: Glossary of Terms

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GlossaryAlendronate (brand name Fosamax®)
A drug used in the treatment of osteoporosis to increase bone mass.

Organs composed of hard living tissue providing structural support to the body and made mostly of collagen and calcium.

Bone density
The amount of calcium and minerals in the bone tissue.

Bone mass
The total amount of bone tissue in the skeleton.

Bone mineral density (BMD) test
A test used to diagnose osteoporosis. It detects bone loss even in its early stages. The test can also be used to determine if a person is at risk for fractures and can be used to monitor increases in bone density as a result of treatment.

A naturally occurring hormone secreted by the thyroid gland known to increase bone density. It can also help relieve pain associated with fractures. It is available in two forms: injection or nasal spray.

A mineral found in many foods and used by the body to help strengthen bones and teeth.

Cancellous bone
Also called trabecular bone; an inner spongy structure that resembles a honeycomb. The inner bone cavities contain bone marrow where red blood cells are produced.

Stretchy tissue that, as the body grows, develops into bone. Remaining cartilage helps keep bones flexible.

Compression fracture
An injury to the spine in which one or more vertebrae collapse. If the collapse is only in the front part of the spine, it becomes wedge shaped and is called a compression fracture or wedge fracture. However, if the vertebral body is crushed in all directions it is called a burst fracture.

Cortical bone
The outer layer of bone. Hard bone - the dense outer covering of bone; also known as compact cortical bone.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Also called estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). This treatment is often given to women to replenish estrogen levels lost during menopause thereby slowing down the rate of bone loss and reducing the risk of fractures. However, experts do not know all the risks of long-term use of this therapy.

Kyphotic curve
Commonly called "humpback." A telltale sign of advanced osteoporosis and the result of the collapse of vertebrae in the thoracic spine. A severe kyphotic curve can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

A treatment for compression fractures that involves the use of a "balloon," which is placed into a collapsed vertebrae. The balloon is inflated, removed, and the resulting cavity is filled with an orthopedic cement that hardens. This helps return the vertebral body to its original height.

The process of cartilage changing into hard bone.

A type of cell that forms bone.

A type of cell that breaks down bone.

A cell within regions of adult bone involved in the maintenance of bone.

Also known as "adult rickets." A condition in which bones become soft as a result of a Vitamin D deficiency.

A condition in which there is a decrease in bone density but not necessarily an increase in the risk or incidence of fracture.

A condition in which there is a decrease in bone mass and bone density and an increased risk and/or incidence of fracture. Peak bone mass - the maximum amount of bone a person can achieve during skeletal growth.

A fibrous membrane that covers the outside of bone.

Raloxifene (brand name Evista®)
A drug recently approved for the prevention of osteoporosis that prevents bone loss. It is from a new class of drugs called Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs).

Skeletal system
The rigid framework of bones in the body that supports soft tissues and protects internal organs.

Spinal column
Also called the vertebral column; extends from the skull to the pelvis and is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebrae. The spinal column is divided into four regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral.

Any one of the 33 bony segments of the spinal column.

A procedure used to treat compression fractures that utilizes orthopedic cement, which is injected into the collapsed or cracked vertebrae. The cement hardens and restores the vertebral bone's stability.

Updated on: 08/17/15
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Osteoporosis Condition Center
Isador H. Lieberman, MD, MBA, FRCSC
This article was reviewed by Isador H. Lieberman, MD.
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Osteoporosis Condition Center

Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but bone fractures of the spine—the vertebrae—are especially serious.
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