As you get older, your primary care physician will suggest that you have a bone density test, also known as a DEXA scan. This test checks your bones for osteoporosis. Women over 65 should generally get a bone density test every two years. Men over 70 should talk with their doctors about whether they might need a DEXA scan.
If the idea of getting a bone density test seems alarming, relax! This is a quick, painless, non-invasive imaging procedure. It involves a very low level of radiation, much less than is required for an X-ray. There are no side effects or known dangers in a bone density scan.
What happens when you get a bone density test
Ideally, you should avoid clothing with metal, such as zippers or rivets. It’s best to avoid sequins, glitter, and any other metallic touches, as well. Leave off or remove jewelry, including piercings.
If you follow these suggestions, you will not usually need to remove clothing. However, you will need to remove clothing with metal elements if you did not plan ahead. The metal will confuse the imaging machine.
Bone density scans are generally taken in two places: one hip and the lower back are the most common spots. You will lie on a table on your back. You may be provided with foam or plastic blocks to help keep your body in the right position for the scan.
You will need to lie still during the scan. You can breathe normally.
Some people find that they feel a bit light-headed when they sit up following the scan. Your technician may suggest that you stay sitting until you are confident about standing up.
Does it hurt?
A DEXA scan does not hurt. It is a non-invasive procedure, and it takes just 10 -20 minutes.
If you are a woman over 65 or a man over 70, talk with your doctor about having a bone density scan. Your doctor may also recommend this test if you have risk factors for osteoporosis.
If your bone density test shows that you have significant bone loss, your doctor will work with you on lifestyle changes and possibly medication to address the issue. Don’t hesitate to get your bone scan.