What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is defined as low bone mass and the structural deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to bone fragility and an increased risk of fracture in the hip, spine and wrist. According to the National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease Resource Center, over 40 million people are diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone density. Approximately one in two women and one in four men, age fifty and older, will suffer from a fracture related to osteoporosis.
What are the Common Causes and Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?
The most significant underlying cause of osteoporosis is less than optimal bone growth during childhood and adolescence, which results in never obtaining full potential for peak bone mass. Causes of osteoporosis later in life can be from bone loss due to a greater than expected rate of bone resorption or a decreased rate of bone formation, or both. Risk factors include:
- Gender: women lose bone mass faster due to changes with menopause (decreased estrogen leads to bone loss)
- Age: bones inevitably become thinner and weaker as we age
- Body Size: petite framed women are more at risk
- Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian women are the highest risk
- Family History: genetic factors may determine as much as 50-90% of bone mass
- Sex Hormones: absence of menstrual periods, low estrogen and testosterone
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Poor Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
- Medication Use: long-term steroids, anticonvulsants and cancer chemotherapy drugs
- Lifestyle: inactivity increases risk, as well as cigarette smoking and alcohol intake
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Treatment for patients with osteoporosis consists of a comprehensive program, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, safety education for fall prevention and appropriate therapeutic medications. The primary goal of treatment is to prevent fractures. Physical therapy can help prevent fractures by assisting patients with fall prevention – patients will begin a regular exercise program to strengthen muscles and improve balance under the supervision of a physical therapist. Patients will also be educated on how to make their home safer, as well as on assistive devices that may be beneficial to them, i.e. walker, cane.
The Program that your Physical Therapist will design may include:
- Low impact weight bearing exercises
- Resistance exercises, such as lifting weights
- Movement modification instruction to avoid movements that may place excess stress on the spine
- Flexibility exercises to help counteract the typical postural deviations that occur with age
- Balance training to help decrease fall risk