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What is osteoporosis?

What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis occurs when the struts which make up the mesh-like structure within bones become thin causing them to become fragile and break easily, often following a minor bump or fall. These broken bones are often referred to as ‘fragility fractures’. The terms ‘fracture’ and ‘broken bone’ mean the same thing. Although fractures can occur in different parts of the body, the wrists, hips and spine are most commonly affected. It is these broken bones or fractures which can lead to the pain associated with osteoporosis. Spinal fractures can also cause loss of height and curvature of the spine.
There is information suggesting a link between some drugs used to treat osteoporosis and a very rare condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). This factsheet has been produced in response to the many questions the National Osteoporosis Society’s Helpline receives on this subject prompted by media stories and the often confusing information that is available online. It is important to remember that osteonecrosis of the jaw is very rare in people taking drug treatments for osteoporosis and in the majority of people the benefits of taking a drug treatment will far outweigh the risk. 
Why do I need a drug treatment for osteoporosis? Drug treatments are prescribed if you have osteoporosis and are at a high risk of broken bones. These treatments help strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of having fractures.