Richard Gibson, M.D.

Your Guide to Osteoporosis with Dr. Richard Gibson

Originally published in the Williamson Source

One in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture at some point in their life. And once a patient suffers an osteoporotic fracture, the risk of having another within a year is five times higher than the average population. That’s why seeking treatment at the first sign of a problem is important.

Dr. Richard Gibson is an expert in bone health and focuses on non-surgical orthopaedics at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. He shares important information about osteoporosis, risk factors, treatment options and more:

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is decreased bone density, which can present as an increased risk of fracture over someone with young, healthy bones.

The ailment is often confused with osteoarthritis, which is wear and tear to the cartilage. A big difference between the two is that osteoarthritis can cause increased joint pain, while osteoporosis is a silent disease where you may not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis can be a natural part of aging. Throughout people’s lives, their bones are always in a constant state of breaking down and rebuilding.

In young people, the rebuilding outpaces the breaking down. But as a person ages, the breaking down of the bone outpaces the building of new bone, and the bones get weaker and more brittle over time.

Osteoporosis Signs and Symptoms

One challenging thing about osteoporosis is that you don’t have any signs or symptoms of the ailment until you break a bone. A major sign for doctors that something might be wrong is when a broken bone is caused by low-energy trauma, such as falling from a standing height. That fall would not generally break a bone. But older osteoporosis patients can suffer from simple falls and experience a broken bone despite that same fall causing minimal damage to a patient with healthy bones.

Although patients have no symptoms before breaking a bone, they can become aware of osteoporosis from regular screenings from their primary care doctor. Experts recommend that patients over the age of 50 undergo a bone density test every other year to check on bone health. This can help catch it early and reduce the amount of bone loss a person suffers.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Most commonly, post-menopausal women over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis. But men can get osteoporosis as well. Other factors that could impact your risk factors include:

• Family History

• Body frame size

• Hormone issues

• Other medical conditions – such as inflammatory disease or cancer – can make your bones more brittle, even at a young age

Osteoporosis Treatment Options

The good news is there are several pharmacologic treatment options for reducing bone loss. These treatments include:

• Oral medications

• Injection treatments

• IV infusions

Some newer medicines for osteoporosis decrease bone loss over time while also helping to build new bone. These new treatments are good for those with more severe or advanced osteoporosis.

All those treatment options have different risks and side effects. Patients should reach out to their doctor to discuss which option is best.

Are There Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis?

The best prevention is to supplement with calcium and vitamin D. Additionally, regular weight-bearing exercise helps bones stay strong. Those with a family history of osteoporosis should talk to their doctor long before turning 50 to protect and strengthen bone health early.

If you’ve suffered a bone fracture or other injury and suspect osteoporosis or osteoarthritis could be in play, schedule an appointment with a specialist at Bone and Joint Institute for an assessment. or call the clinic at (615) 791-2630.

Richard Gibson, M.D. is a board-certified family medicine and sports medicine physician specializing in the evaluation and non-operative treatment of orthopaedic injuries. He joined the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee team in September 2021. Originally from Maryville, Tennessee, Dr. Gibson grew up admiring his father’s career as a family medicine physician and team doctor for Maryville College. He was inspired to pursue a career in medicine, earning his undergraduate degrees from University of Tennessee and his Doctor of Medicine from East Tennessee State University. He completed his family medicine residency at Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, Florida, and his fellowship training at American Sports Medicine Institute, founded by the world-renowned sports medicine specialist Dr. James Andrews, in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Gibson specializes in the evaluation and treatment of concussions and related injuries. Throughout his training, he has served as team physician for multiple high school and college athletics departments, including providing coverage for Troy University, Samford University, Birmingham-Southern University and the SEC baseball tournament. He is the current team physician for both Page High School and Fairview High School.