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Bone and joint health

Maintaining healthy bones and joints is especially important as you get older. Ageing causes changes in your bones, joints and muscles, such as stiffer joints and loss of bone density.

Learn more about common issues for women and what you can do to have good bone and joint health.

Topics on this page

Joint aches and pains

It’s common to experience joint aches and pains as you age. This can be caused by stiffer and less flexible joints, loss of cartilage and fluid between your joints, bony growths (bone spurs) and inflammation.


‘Arthritis’ is the name for a group of conditions that affect the joints in your body. These conditions damage your joints, causing pain and stiffness. Arthritis is the most common chronic condition among older people in Australia.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the whole joint. It affects about 1.2 million older people in Australia. Osteoarthritis can cause pain and stiffness in any joint, but it’s more common in the knees, hips and fingers.

You can find more information about osteoarthritis at Arthritis Australia.


In Australia, it’s estimated that 23% of women over 50 have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is when bones lose their density and become thin, weak and fragile. This makes them more at risk of fracture, even from something as simple as a minor bump.

The hormone oestrogen plays a role in maintaining bone strength. At menopause, your oestrogen levels drop. This puts you at a greater risk of lower bone density (osteopaenia) and osteoporosis.

You can find more information about osteoporosis at Healthy Bones Australia.


As you get older, it’s common to have more falls. People aged 65 years and over are eight times more likely to end up in hospital, and more likely to die from a fall, than people aged under 65.

Many things contribute to the risk of falls, including changes to eyesight, balance, reaction times and concentration.

The good news is that many falls are preventable and injury from falls can be minimised. An Australian Government guide has information about preventing falls for older people. For example:

  • stand up slowly after lying down or sitting
  • make sure you are steady before walking
  • be physically active every day
  • have your eyesight and glasses checked at least once every two years
  • take extra care on stairs
  • choose comfortable, flat shoes with good grip
  • make your home safer to move around in.

Read the ‘Don’t fall for it’ brochure on the Australian Government website.

What you can do

There are many things you can do to look after your bones and joints as you get older.

Physical activity and diet

It’s important to do regular weight-bearing physical activity to reduce the rate of bone loss and maintain bone health.

Make sure you have enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help strengthen and protect your bones.

Learn more about bone health.

You can also learn more about vitamin D and bone health.

Visit the Healthy Bones Australia website to learn different weight-bearing exercises.

Managing pain

There are different ways you can relieve joint and muscle pain. For example, you can:

  • do light exercise and gentle stretching
  • use hot and cold packs
  • practise relaxation techniques (e.g. breathing)
  • look after your emotional wellbeing.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend different medicines as part of your treatment plan.

Health checks

There are different tests to check your bone health. If you are over 50 and have risk factors for osteoporosis, your doctor may give you a referral to get a bone density scan (‘DXA scan’). Blood and urine tests may also be used to check your calcium, vitamin D and other markers for bone health.

Learn more about bone health checks.

When to see your doctor

If you have ongoing joint or bone pains that impact your daily life, or if you have had falls, talk to your doctor.

If you have a family history of bone and joint problems (e.g. osteoporosis or arthritis) talk to your doctor about how you can reduce your risks of developing these conditions.

More resources

Read or download our Bone and joint health fact sheet.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Older Australians, Web Report, Last updated, 28 June 2023
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Estimating the prevalence of osteoporosis in Australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Falls in older Australians 2019-20: hospitalisations and deaths among people aged 65 and over
Last updated: 
18 June 2024
Last reviewed: 
02 February 2024

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