Keep Your Bones Strong: Emphasis on Osteoporosis
Submitted by: Corey Vanderwouw. MPT
Strong bones are part of staying healthy and keeping quality of life high. Our bones are responsible for protecting our organs, keeping us upright, and giving us a strong framework from which to move.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weakened and more susceptible to breaking. As part of normal bone maintenance, our bodies continuously remove old bone and replace it with new bone. When more bone is broken down than is replaced, the bones become porous like a sponge, which makes them fragile and more easily broken when stressed, like when taking a fall. It affects 10.2 million Americans, with an additional 43 million people being at risk.
Bone fractures from osteoporosis occur most commonly at the hip, wrist, ribs and spine. These fractures result in pain and disability. Due to the inherent weakness of osteoporotic bone, fractures may take a longer than typical to heal. In severe cases bones becomes so weak that even a mild stress such as bending forward, coughing, bending, twisting, or sneezing can cause a bone to break. Spinal compression fractures can cause a loss of height, back pain, scoliosis and an often permanently forward-hunched posture, unless properly addressed.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of having osteoporosis include age, having a smaller body frame, ethnicity, medications, lack of exercise, lack of calcium and vitamin D, some digestive disorders, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and family history of osteoporosis. Men comprise 20%, and women 80% of cases of osteoporosis, with the onset in women most commonly occuring after menopause.
Managing osteoporosis is a multi-disciplinary approach, with your primary physician establishing a treatment plan that might include support through medication, nutritional guidance as well as physical activity.
Numerous studies suggest that weight-bearing exercises can slow bone loss over time and may even mildly build up bone. A well-designed exercise program also improves muscle strength, balance, posture and coordination, which all are important factors that lower the risk of falling. An exercise program is best when customized to each person according to bone density and other personal factors.
In order to design an appropriate exercise program, it is important to know your bone density. Ask your doctor for a bone density scan, also called a DEXA (DXA) scan. Your local physical therapists can then perform a personalized, comprehensive assessment, provide you with safe and appropriate exercises, identify contraindicated movements, and work with you to develop an exercise program that caters to your specific needs.
Corey Vanderwouw, MPT specializes in spinal rehabilitation from adolescent to geriatrics, co-owner of Fit for Life Physical Therapy. Move better, Live better.