by Meghan O. Haus, DPT, November 7, 2016
Osteoporosis is a disease affecting 55% of Americans age 50 and older and women are at the greatest risk. The disease commonly leads to fractures and subsequent hospitalizations thus early diagnosis and management are important.
There are two types of cells in your body that control bone growth and bone break down. Bone growth is caused by osteoblasts and reaches its peak pace at age 30. Then, bone resorption begins at a faster pace with an increase in cells called osteoclasts. This thins bones making them more fragile and less able to withstand everyday forces much less a fall. Bone loss is typically most significant during and post menopause. However, there are other diseases and factors that can contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis:
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spina bifida
- Cystic fibrosis
- Kidney disease
- Excessive alcohol
- Inactive lifestyle
- Low weight
- Poor Diet
Symptoms and Diagnosis: You may not feel the onset of osteoporosis, or realize that you have it prior to experiencing a fall. Some may experience a loss of height or the appearance of a humpback. The most prevalent sign of onset is breaking a bone without a significant event. The joints that are most commonly affected and fractured are the upper back (thoracic spine), hip and wrists. Osteoporosis is diagnosed through the use of a bone density scan. This technique measures the proportion of minerals in your bones and compares those scores to an average at your age group. If you are defined as “at risk” you will be diagnosed with osteopenia (pre osteoporosis). Those with more significant scores will be diagnosed with osteoporosis.
How can physical therapy help?: Bone growth occurs with adequate and appropriate stress. Exercises should include those in weight-bearing and with resistance. For those at risk for osteoporosis it is recommended that patient perform aerobic exercise 3-5x/week and resistance exercise 2-3 days/week. Moderate to high intensity is appropriate at this stage. For those patients diagnosed with osteoporosis the same frequency is recommended but at a lower intensity. Your physical therapist can perform tests to help you measure your intensity while exercises.
Physical therapy can also help you improve agility and balance and thus decrease your risk of falls. Additionally, a PT is able to perform a home safety assessment to address possible risks for falls at home. Posture can also been improved through exercises and education.
If you have recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia and have questions about how a PT can help call one of our offices today!