Osteoporosis is very common diagnosis, especially as we get older. It is estimated that more than 200 million people have osteoporosis. Approximately 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years old and 1 in 5 men will experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. Osteoporosis leads to 8.9 million fractures annually worldwide. Read below to learn more about this pathology and how physical therapy can help.
Characteristics of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is low bone density, or decreased thickness in the bone. It leads to decreased bone strength as well as changes in the bone structure. This makes it so the bone is thinner and more porous. Due to these changes, the bones are weaker and are unable to withstand the usual forces of everyday life, leading to potential fractures.
Who often is affected by Osteoporosis?
This condition is more common in older women, usually occuring during the first 5 years of menopause. That being said, men and children can get osteoporosis too due to other conditions. In addition, other life styles can lead to an increase risk in developing this pathology.
Risk factors for osteoporosis
Risks that cannot be avoided include:
- female gender
- small frame
- advanced age
- hormone levels (low estrogen)
- predisposing medical conditions
Risks that can be addressed or avoided include:
- cigarette smoking
- excessive alcohol intake
- inactive lifestyle
- excessive caffeine intake
- lack of weight bearing exercises
- drugs (steroids, heparin)
- poor health
- low weight
- amenorrhea in young female atheletes
- calcium-deficient diet
- low vitamin D levels
Signs you may have Osteoporosis
You may never notice that you have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Some signs can include loss of height or a forward posture in your spine known as kyphosis. If you have a spinal fracture from a small task such as picking up an object, sitting down in a chair too hard, or stepping off a curb, then you may want to have your bone density checked.
How is it diagnosed?
Talk with your doctor to have a DEXA scan performed to find your T-score and your Z-score:
- The T-score compares your score to a healthy 30 year old. If your score is -1 or less then you have a greater risk of fracture.
- A T-score of -2.5 or less is a diagnosis of osteoporosis
- The Z-score compares your bone mineral density to those of the same weight, age, and sex as you.
How can physical therapy help you?
Physical therapy is a great thing to look into if you receive a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Your Physical Therapist can help you with:
- Specific exercises to increase your bone density and decrease your bone loss
- Improve posture to protect the spine from fracturing
- Teach you lifting postures
- Improve your balance to reduce the risk of falling
- How to improve your environment to decrease the risk of falling
The key will be weightbearing exercises and resistance exercises. These are optimal for bone health and to help build bone density.
Some examples of weight-bearing exercises include:
- jogging (if density if greater than -3.0)
- racquet sports
- Weight-lifting with correct postures
- Exercise bands
- Exercises against gravity (push ups, squats, lunges, etc)
- Exercises to decrease kyphosis
- Balance exercises
If you have receive a recent diagnosis of osteoporosis, a recent fracture, or you have been experiencing osteoporosis for a long time, reach out to the clinic so we can help you! Give us a call if you are in Falls Church, Arlington, or the surrounding areas.
1. Sözen T, Özışık L, Başaran NÇ. An overview and management of osteoporosis. Eur J Rheumatol. 2017 Mar;4(1):46-56. doi: 10.5152/eurjrheum.2016.048. Epub 2016 Dec 30. PMID: 28293453; PMCID: PMC5335887.
2. Johnell, O. and J.A. Kanis, An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporos Int, 2006. 17(12): p. 1726-33