Importance of Bone Density

A common way to measure bone density is with a Bone Density test (DEXA scan). It takes 20 minutes or less to perform the test. The test causes no pain and is performed with low levels of radiation. The DEXA scan measures your bone density at the spine and hip. Other locations are occasionally measured during the scan. When taking a bone density measurement, you doctor will use x-rays to measure the mineral density of a segment of bone. The doctor looks to see if enough calcium and other minerals are in that segment of bone to ensure strong, healthy bones. Usually a bone density test is taken of the bones that are most likely to become thin and break easily. The lumbar vertebrae of the lower spine, the upper section of the femur and the bones of the forearm and wrist are the most common places for a bone density test.

The test is fast and easy. You don't have do anything to prepare for it. And the test is completely painless. In fact, it has become common for pharmacies and health fairs to offer bone density screening. In other words, there's no reason not to have your bone density checked.

When you complete a bone density test, your doctor (or the person doing the test) will give you your results in the form of a T-score. If your T-score is above -1 then your bones are normal, healthy and strong. If your score is between -1 and -2.5, then your bones are beginning to thin and you are at risk of osteoporosis. A score lower than -2.5 indicates that you already have osteoporosis.

Bone Density Procedure information (PDF)