The Cheapest Weapon Against Osteoporosis: A Tape-Measure

Height loss is a frequent manifestation of spinal osteoporosis – and is simple to evaluate in the clinical setting.

Osteoporosis is often described as a “silent thief”. One question that should be asked is: “How tall is the thief?” Osteoporosis does not usually present any visible symptoms until fragility fractures occur, but height loss is a frequent manifestation of spinal osteoporosis – and is simple to evaluate in the clinical setting.

Therefore taking some measurements is crucial, not only to understand
the clinical aspect of the disease, but also to follow the disease process. Due to the relative expense of current testing for osteoporosis, clinicians may identify an inexpensive “marker” for increased risk for osteoporosis through simple height measurements annually. Although there is increasing interest around the studies exploring the association between anthropometric measurements and osteoporosis, this field still needs future research.Three centimeters of difference between arm span and height was proposed by the Dutch general practitioners for suspecting osteoporosis. Measuring height loss is the cheapest clinical tool for detecting the risk for osteoporosis in women, especially those over 50 years old. Interestingly, height loss is not only an indicator of spinal osteoporosis, but also a significant predictor of osteoporosis at the hip (Kantor et al. Height loss and osteoporosis of the hip. Clin Densitom 2004, 7(1):65-70). Although there are many densitometry devices and biochemical markers in this field, anthropometric measurements of the patients are still of crucial value as well.

The use of a tape-measure should be encouraged in clinical practice and considered as an economical screening tool in order to reach the high-risk population for osteoporosis.  It is to important to keep in mind “the power of centimeters” in fighting osteoporosis!

Contributed by Dr. Sansin Tüzün, Turkish Osteoporosis Patient Society