Chiropractic Association of South Africa (CASA)

Getting to Grips with Bone Density

Conditions & Diseases

Getting to Grips with Bone Density

As you head into your 60s, your doctor might recommend you have a bone density scan to evaluate the strength of your skeleton and work out your risk of breaking a bone, but what exactly does it involve?

What is a bone density test?

A DEXA scan, also known as a bone density test, is a quick and painless procedure that is often requested by doctors to test the density of bone throughout your body, i.e. how much calcium and other minerals are present in the bone.

The scan is carried out by a radiographer and shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to complete. You will be required to lie flat on your back and keep very still while a very low does of X-ray is passed through your body and images of your skeleton are taken.

Why do I need a bone density test?

There are various reasons as to why your practitioner may deem you eligible for a DEXA scan:

  • To determine the bone density and risk of fracture before it becomes a problem
  • To confirm a suspected diagnosis of osteoporosis due to chemotherapy or age
  • To check against previous tests to monitor progression of bone density changes


A routine scan is often called for in more mature ladies due to an increased risk of osteoporosis but this doesn’t mean that men and children should not be tested if there is a medical indication for such.

Bone density test for older women

What do the results mean?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are two scores that need to be considered – T and Z scores.

T scores refer to the difference between your measurement and that of a young, healthy adult of your sex.

The WHO classifies T scores as follows:

  • Above -1 is considered normal
  • Between -1 and -2.5 is defined as mildly reduced bone mineral density and is a sign of osteopenia and may lead to osteoporosis
  • At or below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis


The Z score looks at a comparison of your bone density against that of someone of the same age and sex. For example, a Z-score below -2.0 is a warning that your bone density is lower than someone of a similar age, and is something that your chiropractor will be able to provide advice on.

When should I consult a chiropractor?

Chiropractors are experienced at treating patients who have musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoporosis. Common treatments include adjustments and rehabilitative exercises to help increase mobility and range of motion, which may help prevent injury in future.

If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or suffered a fracture, it might be an idea to chat to a local CASA-registered chiropractor. They will be able to tell you more about bone densitometry, explain how to interpret your results, develop a treatment plan and co-ordinate your care together with your doctor.


This blog post is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Tags :
bone density, dexa scan, osteoporosis
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