What Should You Not Do Before a Bone Density Test? 5 Don’ts

What to avoid when getting a bone density test.

In all the talk about aching joints and mobility, your bone health can often be overlooked. The simple truth is that as we age, our bones deteriorate. Whether it’s from Osteoporosis or a different condition, it’s important to take bone density tests.. And that’s why we’re about to answer “What should you NOT do before a bone density test?”

Why Get A Bone Density Test?

A Bone Density Test could prevent a broken bone or catch a health condition before it gets in the way of your life. One of the biggest reasons doctors use Bone Density tests is to diagnose and monitor Osteoporosis. Weaker bones are the most common symptom of Osteoporosis which often leads to wrists, spines, and hips that have a higher chance of fracturing.

Other reasons you may want to consider a Bone Density Test are:

 1. Lost Height  

If you’ve lost 1.5 inches in height or more, you may have a compression fracture in your spine—of which Osteoporosis is one of the main causes. A Bone Density Test will be needed for diagnosis.

 2. Fragility Fracture

These fractures happen when bones become so fragile that every day activity causes fractures. Sometimes our bones become so weak a strong cough or sneeze can cause a fracture. A bone density test will help find where the least dense bones are.

3. Long Time Steroid Use 

Steroids are used for a number of reasons, but after a long period of time taking steroids there are potential issues. A common issue is interfering with your body’s ability to rebuild bones which can lead to Osteoporosis. If you are or have taken steroids you may want to talk to your doctor about bone density changes.

 4. Hormone Level Drops

Your hormones control a lot of what your body does, so when there is a major change it’s best to understand how those changes may have affected your entire body—including your bones. Menopausal and Postmenopausal women and men going through prostate cancer treatment are most likely to experience these changes.

The Different Kinds of Bone Density Tests

Doctor looking at bone density test results for older patient

There are two basic tests that you may encounter: 

1. A Central DXA test is used to focus on forearms, spines, and hips most commonly. This kind of test is used on the parts of the body most likely to be injured. 

2. A Screening or Peripheral test. These tests are used when Central DXA isn’t available and to test how effective an osteoporosis treatment plan is. 

At the end of either test you’ll get two scores: A T-score and a Z-score. 

A T-score puts your bone density against a typical adult based on gender. A T-score of -1 or higher falls in the normal range. A T-score of -2.5 or lower means you may have osteoporosis. A Z-Score compares your bone density to the density someone of your age should have. 

What Should You Not Do Before a Bone Density Test?

1.  Don’t wear something tight:

On the day of your bone density test it’s important to dress comfortably. Something as simple as a tshirt and sweatpants will do the trick. Avoid any clothing with metal zippers or buttons, and make sure to take everything out of your pockets. Especially credit cards which can become unusable. Sometimes you’ll be asked to put on a medical examination gown.

2.  Don’t go hungry:

It’s unlikely you will have to change your diet very much to be prepared for a bone density test. Make sure to ask your doctor if there are any exceptions. Inform your doctor of any food allergies or concerns. 

Further Reading: Here are 12 foods that can affect bone density that should be avoided every day.

3.  Don’t take calcium supplements:

Calcium based medications can cause the tests to be less accurate. It’s best to avoid taking any medication that features calcium 24 hours before your test. Eating calcium rich foods is ok. This also includes over the counter medications like Tums. Ask your doctor or technician for alternatives.

4.  Don’t hide previous conditions or injuries from your doctor:

If you have any previous injuries and fractures, tell your doctor before the test. This will help them give accurate results and identify any anomalies with confidence. The more accurate the results, the better informed you’ll be on your bones’ health.

5.  Don’t exercise the day before:

The last thing you want to do before you get your bone density tested is fracture or break a bone. Avoid heavy exercise at least the day before your test to ensure your body is in good condition so the test is accurate.

How To Improve Bone Density

Losing bone density doesn’t mean you’re stuck with fragile bones for the rest of your life. Your bones work a lot like your muscles—you can strengthen them both by adding gentle weight-bearing exercises! The weight puts healthy stress on your bones which signals the “bone-building” cells in your body to get to work creating denser, stronger bone tissue. 

The best part is you can start improving your bone density with just a couple of pounds—and you can even do it entirely from a seated position! Work on your bone density at home with this Seated Bone Density Class!  

Bone density tests are incredibly important as we age. They can help catch problems before they get out of hand and help you manage ongoing conditions like Osteoporosis. Speak to your doctor for more tips on what you shouldn’t do before a bone density test.