Osteoporosis is a bone disorder. It causes the bones to lose mass, density, and quality. It may cause severe back pain and loss of height.
It is managed with medicine and healthy habits to help slow bone loss. Natural therapies have been used to ease pain and prevent fracture. They should not be used in place of standard care.
These supplements are likely to promote bone health:
- Magnesium is a mineral that can be taken as a supplement.B11
- Soy isoflavones are chemicals found in many plants.B15
- Strontium is an element that can be taken as a supplement. It is also likely to help prevent fractures. (Note: It may cause diarrhea.)B1, B3
- Vitamin C is a nutrient mainly found in fruits and vegetables. It is also likely to lower the risk of fractures.B7
Wuqinxi is a type of martial arts. It is likely to ease pain.C1
May Be Effective
- Acupuncture may help ease pain.A1, A2
- Calcium is a nutrient found in dairy products like milk and cheese. It may prevent fracture and promote bone health when taken with Vitamin D. (Note: It should not be taken by people who have heart problems.)B6, B8
- Chinese herbal medicine is the use of herbs to balance the body. It may promote bone health.B13
- Tai Chi is a form of gentle exercise and stretching. It may ease pain and promote bone health.C2, C3
- Vitamin D is available in a few foods and as a supplement. Your body also makes it in response to sunlight. Vitamin D may ease symptoms and help prevent fracture.B5, B8, B12, B14
May Not Be Effective
Chinese herbal medicine may not improve bone mineral density.B9
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:
- Calcium should not be taken by people who have heart problems. It may worsen symptoms.
- Strontium may cause diarrhea.
A1. Pan H, Jin R, et al. The Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Osteoporosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Chin Med. 2018;46(3):489-513.
A2. Huang F, Zhao S, et al. Acupuncture for primary osteoporosis: A network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials protocol. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Apr;98(15):e15108. in: Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 May;98(21):e15898.
A3. Luo D Jr, Liu Y Jr, et al. Warm needle acupuncture in primary osteoporosis management: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2018 Aug;36(4):215-221.
Herbs and Supplements
B1. O’Donnell S, Cranney A, et al. Strontium ranelate for preventing and treating postmenopausal osteoporosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;(4):CD005326.
B2. Vestergaard P, Jorgensen NR, et al. Effects of treatment with fluoride on bone mineral density and fracture risk—a meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2008;19(3):257-268.
B3. Kanis JA, Johansson H, et al. A meta-analysis of the effect of strontium ranelate on the risk of vertebral and non-vertebral fracture in postmenopausal osteoporosis and the interaction with FRAX(®). Osteoporos Int. 2011 Aug;22(8):2347-55. doi: 10.1007/s00198-010-1474-0. Epub 2011 Feb 2. Erratum in: Osteoporos Int. 2011 Aug;22(8):2357-8. PubMed PMID: 21287148.
B4. Huang ZB, Wan SL, et al. Does vitamin K2 play a role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis for postmenopausal women: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporos Int. 2015;26(3):1175-1186.
B5. Cesareo R, Iozzino M, et al. Effectiveness and safety of calcium and vitamin D treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis. Minerva Endocrinol. 2015;40(3):231-237.
B6. Weaver CM, Alexander DD. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and risk of fractures: an updated meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporosis Int. 2016;27(1):367-376.
B7. Malmir H, Shab-Bidar S, et al. Vitamin C intake in relation to bone mineral density and risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Br J Nutr. 2018 Apr;119(8):847-858.
B8. Zhao JG, Zeng XT, et al. Association Between Calcium or Vitamin D Supplementation and Fracture Incidence in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017 Dec 26;318(24):2466-2482.
B9. Jin YX, Wu P, et al. Chinese Herbal Medicine for Osteoporosis: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Clin Densitom. 2017 Oct - Dec;20(4):516-525.
B10. Xu F, Huang M, et al. Moxibustion treatment for primary osteoporosis: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 7;12(6):e0178688.
B11. Farsinejad-Marj M, Saneei P, et al. Dietary magnesium intake, bone mineral density and risk of fracture: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2016 Apr;27(4):1389-1399.
B12. Avenell A, Mak JC, et al. Vitamin D and vitamin D analogues for preventing fractures in post-menopausal women and older men. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Apr 14;(4):CD000227.
B13. Liu Y, Liu JP, et al. Chinese herbal medicines for treating osteoporosis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Mar 6;(3):CD005467.
B14. Reid IR, Bolland MJ, et al. Effects of vitamin D supplements on bone mineral density: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2014 Jan 11;383(9912):146-155.
B15. Wei P, Liu M, et al. Systematic review of soy isoflavone supplements on osteoporosis in women. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2012 Mar;5(3):243-248.
C1. Wei X, Xu A, et al. The potential effect of Wuqinxi exercise for primary osteoporosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas. 2015;82(4):346-354.
C2. Zhang Y, Chai Y, et al. Tai chi for treating osteopenia and primary osteoporosis: a meta-analysis and trial sequential analysis. Clin Interv Aging. 2019 Jan 3;14:91-104.
C3. Zou L, Wang C, et al. The Effect of Taichi Practice on Attenuating Bone Mineral Density Loss: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Sep 1;14(9). pii: E1000.
Last reviewed August 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC Last Updated: 5/11/2020