Osteoporosis - back to Programs & Services

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become porous and fragile. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects an estimated 44 million U.S. men and women aged 50 years and older. It is estimated that by the year 2010 this number will grow to over 52 million. Osteoporosis cannot be cured; however, it can be controlled with proper treatment. Osteoporosis itself is not painful, but it often leads to conditions such as fractures in the spine which can cause pain, deformities, and an inability to independently perform activities of daily living. Osteoporosis is also a leading cause of hip fractures, which often require surgery and can lead to a loss of independent living.

Research indicates that one half of all women over 50 years old have osteoporosis or low bone mass and do not know it. Risk factors may increase a person's chance of getting osteoporosis, but having these risk factors does not necessarily mean that a person will develop osteoporosis.

Risk factors for osteoporosis:

- Female gender
- Advanced age
- History of fractures
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Low calcium intake
- Vitamin D deficiency (lack of sun exposure)
- Smoking
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Low activity level
- Caucasian and Asian race
- Certain medications including corticosteroids, excessive thyroid hormones, anticonvulsants,
  antacids containing aluminum, methotrexate, and certain blood thinning drugs
- Estrogen deficiency caused by menopause or premature menopause before age 45
- Low testosterone levels in men
- Small boned and very thin build
- Malabsorption syndromes including chronic liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease

To assess your risk take the IOF One-Minute Osteoporosis Risk Test. People who think they are at risk of osteoporosis are advised to consult their doctors for a bone mineral density test.

All risk factors cannot be controlled; nevertheless, individuals can make certain lifestyle choices that will decrease the risk for developing osteoporosis. These include eating calcium rich foods, doing regular weight bearing activities and remaining active, avoiding excessive alcohol, and stopping smoking. Adequate intake of calcium is necessary for building and maintaining proper bone mass. Research has demonstrated that the combination of supplemental calcium and vitamin D can reduce the risk of fracture. Providing adequate daily calcium and vitamin D is one way to help reduce the risk of fractures. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women over the age 50 consume at least 1200 mg per day of calcium and 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Control Osteoporosis?
One Step Ahead Physical Therapy provides a comprehensive evaluation of a personís strength, mobility, endurance, balance, and fall risk. Pain and posture will also be assessed which will enable the therapist to develop an individualized treatment program addressing any pertinent findings. Treatment often consists of pain control, patient education on proper posture, body mechanics (how to properly perform activities of daily living), and fall prevention strategies. Exercises will be prescribed and may include varied weight-bearing, flexibility and resistive exercises. A goal-oriented approach will be utilized to monitor and track progress.

Physical therapy can reduce disability, improve physical function, and lower risk of subsequent falls in patients with osteoporosis. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that bone density can be increased with certain exercises. The best exercises for building bone are weight-bearing and resistance exercises. These include weight-lifting, walking, hiking, stair-climbing, dancing, tennis, and other activities that require your muscles to work against gravity. The American College of Sports Medicine has recommended thirty minutes of weight-bearing exercise daily which benefits not only bones, but improves heart health, muscle strength, coordination, and balance. Additionally, weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises can improve agility, strength, power, endurance, and balance, which may reduce the risk of falls.

At One Step Ahead Physical Therapy, a physical therapist determines the appropriate exercise intensity, ensuring that the individual is not at risk for injury while exercising at an appropriate intensity. Exercises should not be randomly selected by individuals with osteoporosis as certain movements can increase the risk of fracture. Exercise should be prescribed by an individual such as a physical therapist who is skilled and educated in the special needs of people with osteoporosis. Therapists are experts in exercise prescription and one of their primary roles is to prescribe exercises in order to maximize efficacy and ensure safety.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call or email One Step Ahead Physical Therapy.

Additional Resources:
International Osteoporosis Foundation
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Osteoporosis Society of Canada


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