What Causes Bone Disorders & How Can They Be Treated?

While there may be many different types of bone disorders, some are a lot more common than others. Over time, these bone disorders can lead to debilitating symptoms like chronic pain and even, at times, be disabling. But what causes them? And can they be treated? Here at OneWelbeck, we understand the importance of bone health better than most and have seen firsthand just how life-changing the right treatment can be. Discover more about bone disorders, including their causes and treatments in our latest article.

Understanding bone health

Your bones are living tissue made up of collagen and calcium. The strong frame they create (your skeleton) helps in two key ways: protecting your organs and supporting your body’s movement.

There are two main types of bone — cortical bones and trabecular bones. Cortical bones form the solid outer layer of your bones, whereas trabecular bones are soft and make up the inner layer.

If you develop a bone disorder that damages your bone health, this can severely impact your day-to-day life and ability to perform certain routines and actions.

What are bone disorders?

Bone disorders are specific health conditions that impact the flexibility and/or strength of your bones. They can develop for several reasons, including as a result of genetics, injury or autoimmune conditions.

While not all types of bone conditions can be cured, they can be effectively managed with the right treatment plan.

Over time, bone disorders can lead to an increased risk of fractures and breaks, a reduced range of motion, chronic pain and bone loss/deterioration. All of these symptoms can then make performing simple tasks all the more difficult. Something that used to be easy, like opening a door or brushing your teeth, can suddenly become nearly impossible due to the complications that bone disorders can cause.

Common bone disorders

Each type of bone disorder has different symptoms and causes. Therefore, accurately diagnosing the type of bone disorder you have is the most effective way of ensuring you receive the right treatment.


Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that not only results in decreased bone mass and mineral density but also impacts overall bone structure and quality.

Normally, your bones work by constantly breaking down tissue and replacing it. However, when this tissue can no longer be replaced, this is when osteoporosis occurs.

Symptoms of osteoporosis typically include:

  • Back pain (caused by a broken bone within the spine)

  • Stooped or hunched over posture

  • Loss of height

  • Bones that are more susceptible to fractures and breaks

Since hormonal changes also impact bone health, osteoporosis is common in women who have been through menopause.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis.

Commonly felt in the hands, knees and hips, it is caused when the cartilage within your joints degrades, which can then lead to the shape of your bones changing shape.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Pain in specific joints

  • Stiffness of your joint

  • Tenderness when light pressure is applied to the joint

  • Reduced flexibility

  • Popping or cracking when moving the joint

  • A feeling of grating when you use the joint

  • Bone spurs (extra bits of bone that can develop around the joint)

  • Swelling

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that affects your bone health. During RA, your immune system begins to attack the healthy membranes around your joints, causing the cartilage to degrade over time. This can then put you at a higher risk of bone loss and fractures.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Pain in your joints

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling, warmth and redness around the joint

  • Fatigue

  • A poor appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Sweating

  • Fever

Paget's disease of bone

Paget’s disease of bone is a type of bone disorder that changes the way your bones break down and replace bone tissue. It usually affects the pelvis, spine, skull, shoulders and legs.

During Paget’s disease, the rate of bone restructure is much faster, which can lead to abnormal bone structures being formed. This can then make your bones too soft or too large, leaving them more susceptible to fractures.

Symptoms of Paget’s disease include:

  • Bone or joint pain — this can be constant and get worse at night

  • Warmth in the affected area

  • Nerve problems due to compression in the area — can feel like tingling or numbness, balance problems and pain travelling down your spine into the legs

  • Hearing loss

  • Headaches

  • Vertigo

  • Tinnitus


Osteopenia is a bone disorder where your bone density decreases but not to the extent of an osteoporosis diagnosis.

While, like osteoporosis, osteopenia may be more common in women who have been through menopause, the key difference is that it has no symptoms.

In rare cases, some people can experience bone pain or weakness. However, this condition is generally diagnosed at a health screening.

Causes of bone disorders

There are multiple causes and risk factors associated with each type of bone disorder – ranging from genetics to environmental factors. However, while these can put you at an increased risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will develop them.


While rare, some bone disorders, like early-onset Paget’s disease, can be congenital.

Genetic factors tend to play more of a role as you age, with examples of this typically found when looking back through your family’s medical history.

While genetic bone disorders can include bone disorders like osteoporosis, it’s rarely related to just one gene. Typically, osteoporosis will be determined through polygenic inheritance, where one trait is controlled by multiple genes in the same way as your skin colour or height.

Genetics can put you at a higher risk of developing bone disorders but doesn’t guarantee that you will.


When we age, the minerals within our bones naturally decrease. This leads to us having more fragile bones and lower bone density, elevating our risk of developing bone disorders.

Some people will not even know they have osteoporosis or other bone disorders until they are officially diagnosed or break/fracture a bone.

Osteomalacia is another type of bone disorder commonly associated with ageing. This occurs when your body is unable to metabolise vitamin D properly, causing your bones to become soft.


Women have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and inflammatory arthritic bone diseases like RA. These bone conditions can cause inflammation of the joints, leading to stiffness and pain. Inflammatory bone disorders can also affect other areas of your body such as your lungs, eyes and skin.

The risk of men developing RA in their lifetime is 1.7%, compared to 3.6% in women. The reason behind this difference is not entirely understood. However, certain biological factors are believed to play a role. These include:

  • Childbirth

  • Hormonal changes, including menopause 

  • Hypermobility (this can also occur in men but is more common in women)

Occupational risks

Your job can impact your life in many ways, but certain jobs can actually increase your risk of developing a bone disorder.

For example, jobs that are more physical or feature occupational hazards like stair climbing, lifting, kneeling and other repetitive movements could lead to bone disorders like arthritis.

Environmental factors

Exposure to specific environmental factors can impact your bone health; heavy metals, pollutants, nicotine and fungal toxins have all been shown to increase the risk of inflammatory bone disorders developing.


Certain bacterial and viral infections can sometimes lead to the development of bone disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.


Sometimes injuries can play a role in the development of certain bone disorders.

Bone injuries can increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis – and these don’t just have to be breaks either. They can be anything from dislocations to ligament tears or simply overusing the joint.

Other health conditions

Hormone-related disorders like diabetes can cause inflammation in the body which can then increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis.

When uncontrolled, diabetes can also cause your bones and joints to break down, again elevating your risk of conditions like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Diagnosis and evaluation

Bone disorders can be diagnosed in several ways, using a combination of imaging tests and other measures. These typically include:

Early diagnosis is essential when treating bone disorders. Receiving early treatment can not only slow down the progression of the disorder but also make your symptoms more manageable and enhance the overall effectiveness of your treatment.

Types of bone disorder treatment

Finding the right type of treatment will vary depending on which bone disorder you are diagnosed with.


For most bone disorders, medications that prevent bone degeneration are the first line of defence. These can help reduce the risk of fractures while also restoring bone mass and strength.

Bisphosphonates are a type of medication typically prescribed for osteoporosis. This works by slowing bone loss, making it an effective treatment for certain bone disorders.

Anti-inflammatories are another type of medication that can help with bone disorders. More specifically, they can be used to provide pain relief from conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Exercise and physical therapy

Even though your bone disorder might make it hard for you to exercise, you might be advised to increase your daily movement either through physical therapy or exercise.

However, you will need to be careful about which type of exercises you do as some of them could worsen your condition. A physiotherapist will be able to advise you on what’s safe.

Diet and lifestyle changes

Getting more calcium and vitamin D in your diet (either through supplements or foods like milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables and tofu) could help strengthen your bones.

Without enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet, your parathyroid gland produces too many hormones, causing your bones to weaken and increasing your risk of osteoporosis.

Certain lifestyle modifications can also be used to help manage bone disorders. Things like quitting smoking, eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding more than one or two alcoholic drinks per day can make a difference to your overall health.

Since many bone disorders cause inflammation, positive lifestyle changes are known to help reduce this, making it easier for you to effectively manage your symptoms.

Surgical interventions

In some cases, surgical intervention will be required if other treatments or lifestyle changes haven’t made enough of a difference.

Surgical treatments for bone disorders can include:

  • Removing or replacing damaged joints

  • Cutting and straightening deformed bones

  • Moving bones away from any compressed nerves

While surgical procedures aren’t necessary for all types of bone disorders, they can be used to treat certain ones, such as Paget’s disease.

Book a consultation

Being proactive with your bone health is essential when maintaining it in the long term.

The earlier a bone disorder can be caught, the more effective treatments will be and the easier it will be to manage your symptoms.

If you’re concerned about your bone health, book a consultation with OneWelbeck. Our expert team can answer any questions you may have and help give you peace of mind when trying to safeguard and improve your bone health.