Osteoporosis affects as many as 10 million Americans, and another 44 million people live with low bone density. Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bone, which places you at higher risk for bone fractures–and this may result in further complications that seriously impact your health. If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor likely recommended a treatment plan best suited to your particular needs. But what happens when osteoporosis treatment doesn’t work? Osteoporosis treatments may fail for a variety of reasons, but you still have options to help maintain bone health. If you’re concerned about your osteoporosis treatment, talk with your doctor about other alternatives. Together with your healthcare team, you can find effective therapies to manage your condition. Advances in Osteoporosis Treatment For many people living with osteoporosis, doctors recommend medications to help prevent bone loss and lower your risk of fractures. Bisphosphonates are the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis medications, and they must be taken properly to ensure they work correctly. These types of medications prevent bone loss while also helping to increase bone mass. However, you may have concerns about certain side effects bisphosphonates may cause. The research shows that side effects like atypical femoral fractures may occur—but these complications usually develop in people with severe osteoporosis or those undergoing treatment for other diseases, like cancer. Fortunately, research efforts have provided us with several alternative medications which help prevent bone loss and even promote new bone growth. These medications include: Human monoclonal antibodies: New drugs like denosumab (Prolia, Xgeva) help prevent bone loss by inhibiting the action of osteoclasts, which break down bone. These types of drugs also help make bones denser. Denosumab is usually injected once every six months. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs): This class of drugs, which are related to the female sex hormone estrogen, work by increasing bone density. Your doctor may prescribe a SERM, such as raloxifene (Evista), for you to take as a pill every day. Anabolic agents: These once-a-day injectable medications, including teriparatide (Forteo) and abaloparatide (Tymlos), chemically resemble a portion of parathyroid hormone, which is produced naturally in your body. They increase bone mass by stimulating new bone formation. Both are prescribed to reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women, and teriparatide is also approved to treat men with osteoporosis. Sticking to Your Plan It seems like a no-brainer, but a large part of successful osteoporosis treatment is following your treatment plan. Think about it: if you don’t take your medications like your doctor prescribed, there’s no way they can work to prevent further bone loss. If your initial osteoporosis treatment isn’t working, talk with your doctor about your specific treatment plan. Your doctor can help you find a medication that is better for your lifestyle. Don’t Forget Lifestyle Factors Successfully treating osteoporosis also means making healthy changes to certain aspects of your lifestyle. Without these changes, you’re more likely to experience bone loss and have an increased risk for fractures. You can help boost your treatment’s effectiveness by: Avoiding excess alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol may interfere with your body’s ability to form new bone. Eating a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps keep your bones healthy and strong. Your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement in addition to dietary changes. Exercising regularly. Weight-bearing exercises strengthen your bones and help prevent fractures. Preventing falls. Wearing low-heeled shoes and removing obstacles, such as electrical cords, inside your home can help keep you from falling and fracturing a bone. Quitting smoking. Smoking increases the rate of bone loss within your body. How to Tell If Your Medication is Working Unlike treatment for other diseases, it isn’t always easy to tell if your osteoporosis treatment is working. The best way to determine your therapy’s effectiveness is by measuring your bone density. Bone density scans are performed using low levels of X-rays which measure the amount of minerals in your bones. Most bone density scans measure bone density at the hip, spine, and wrist. It may seem like you don’t have any other options when your initial osteoporosis treatment doesn’t work, but that’s not true. It can take time to determine which type of medication is best for you, but by working together with your doctor, you can find effective treatment that prevents further bone loss and reduces your risk of osteoporosis complications, like fractures.