Osteoporosis

This is the term given to the loss of bone density, most commonly found in post-menopausal women but can also be present in men and women of younger ages. The presence of osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures, most commonly at the wrist, spine or hip but they can occur anywhere in the body. Other symptoms include back or hip pain, loss of height or a hump formation in the upper back.

Osteoporosis is diagnosed by a DEXA scan that measures bone density. If you have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis or Osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis) it is important that you attend a physiotherapist for advice on exercises to help improve your bone density and reduce your risk of fracture. Physiotherapy can also help reduce pain and improve your flexibility and balance.

Methods to prevent osteoporosis:

Exercise

Exercise and nutrition throughout ones life delays bone degeneration. Jogging, walking, or stair climbing at 70-90% of maximum effort three times per week, along with 1,500 mg of calcium per day, increased bone density of the spine by 5% over nine months. Individuals already diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis should discuss their exercise program with their physiotherapist to avoid fractures.

Nutrition

Proper nutrition includes a diet sufficient in calcium and vitamin D. Patients at risk for osteoporosis (e.g. steroid use or Cancer treatments) are generally treated with vitamin D and calcium supplements and often with bisphosphonates. Vitamin D supplementation alone does not prevent fractures, and always needs to be combined with calcium.

How can physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapists can help you improve your muscle strength, advise on exercises that build your bone density and, if you are at risk of falling, advise on how you can improve your balance. Bone is a living tissue that can be built up through exercise, so a physiotherapist will work with you to design a personal programme that suits you.

What will happen when I see a physiotherapist?

The physiotherapist will carry out a detailed assessment of your health, mobility, and balance to see how these factors are affecting your ability to be physically active.

Your consultation is likely to include:

  • a range of exercises or physical activities to do at home
  • advice on making exercise safe for you.
  • if you have already broken a bone, advice on pain relief and mobility.