October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day, a part of Bone and Joint Action Week. It is a day to put a spot light on one of the most common musculoskeletal diseases, and educate on the risks, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Some people may be unsure of what exactly osteoporosis is, and that’s where we come in! We outline the causes and risks of the disease and how physical therapy can help.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by low bone density (thickness of the bone), decreased bone strength, and a change in the bone structure. Bone is living tissue and in osteoporosis, the tissue is broken down quicker than it can be replaced. The weakened bone tissue can lead to an increased risk of fracture, especially amongst older adults, which can have a serious impact on overall quality of life.
Typically, osteoporosis isn’t even diagnosed until after a fracture has already occurred. Osteoporotic fractures occur in one in three women and one in five males aged over 50, but also occur in even athletic populations, especially endurance athletes or athletes who are underweight during the time of peak bone development.
Risk factors for osteoporosis can be controllable (like smoking, drinking, poor nutrition) or non-controllable (like gender or underlying disease). While a person may not be able to negate all the risks for bone loss, there also prevention strategies to help reduce the chances of developing osteoporosis. A physical therapist can help with both prevention and treatment.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
Bone is living tissue and is strengthened by stressing it an appropriate amount – just like how you would strengthen muscle by increasing resistance. A physical therapist may help you improve your bone strength and avoid fracture by teaching specific exercises to build bone or decrease bone loss, educating on proper posture to protect from spinal fractures, and improve balance to reduce the risk of falling.
An exercise program to prevent or treat osteoporosis may include weight bearing exercises, like walking or dancing, and resistance exercises, like using therapy bands, body weight exercises or balancing. A physical therapist can help customize a program to cater to your specific needs. It’s important utilize a healthcare professional when starting an exercise program to reduce the risk of an additional injury.
If you are at risk of osteoporosis or have been recently diagnosed with a bone density concern, make sure to seek help! There are ways to reduce your risk of sustaining further injury and maintaining an awesome, active lifestyle.
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