Combat Osteoporosis with Physical Therapy and Strength Training

Author:
MAVen team

Osteoporosis: An Overview

What is it? 

Osteoporosis is a health condition in which bone mineral density and mass decrease, leading to porous bones. Porous bones are susceptible to fracture and/or injury. 

After peak bone mass is achieved at around 30, bone density begins to decline. However, bone density can decrease more quickly in certain individuals thus resulting in osteoporosis.

Who is at Risk? 

Although osteoporosis can happen to anyone at any age, several factors make individuals susceptible/or high risk:

  1. Post-menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis. The hormone estrogen has a protective role against bone loss. With menopause, estrogen levels decrease, leaving bones more susceptible to becoming osteoporotic.
  2. Individuals with medical conditions that affect nutrient absorption such as Celiac disease, IBS, or thyroid disorders.
  3. People with nutritional deficiencies. Specifically, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.
  4. Individuals who smoke or consume excess alcohol.
  5. People with sedentary lifestyles. 

How is it Diagnosed? 

Osteoporosis is called the ‘silent disease’ as most people don’t realize that their bone density is declining until they break a bone. However, it can be diagnosed through a specialized x-ray system called a DEXA scan which measures bone mineral density. Once measured, the results are given using a “T-score” which compares those results to that of a 30-year-old individual. A T-score of -2.5 or less receives a diagnosis of osteoporosis. 

The Importance of Understanding Osteoporosis and its Risks 

Learning about and understanding osteoporosis is important. It is recommended that women over the age of 65 and women under 65 with the risk factors mentioned above be screened as lowered bone density places individuals at an increased risk of fracture and/or injury. 

With osteoporosis, falls often lead to bone breakages, particularly hip and wrist fractures. In severe cases, bones may be so fragile that a violent cough or sneeze can lead to a break or fracture in the spine or rib cage. 

Injuries associated with osteoporosis can also lead to long-term health issues. As injuries occur, activity levels typically decline which can lead to decreased muscle strength, mobility, and balance, further increasing your risk of future falls and subsequent injury. Injuries also push people towards a sedentary lifestyle which perpetuates the cycle of weakness, stiffness, and balance deficits.

Physical Therapy and Strength Training for Osteoporosis: 

How Strength Training Helps

Bones grow in response to the forces placed upon them. Resistance training is a great way to improve bone mineral density or at least slow the progression of bone mineral density loss. This is because the muscles will pull against the bones to lift against the resistance - subsequently helping to stimulate bone growth. 

Progressive resistance exercises in combination with impact or weight-bearing forces such as walking or jogging are the best ways to strengthen muscles and improve bone health. 

Balance Training through Physical Therapy 

Osteoporosis increases susceptibility to bone injury in the event of a fall. The best way to avoid these injuries is to prevent falls from happening in the first place. Balance training with a physical therapist is a great way to improve stability. This type of training involves utilizing both static and dynamic positions across multiple surfaces (i.e. soft pads, unstable surfaces), and through multiple environments (i.e. obstacle courses). This will help to improve balance and coordination leading to increased confidence while navigating through daily environments both at home and in the community. 

MAVEN’s Fight Against Osteoporosis 

Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis or worried that you may be susceptible to it? Or, do you feel concerned about your balance and fear that your instability may lead to falls?

The Doctors of Physical Therapy at MAVEN can help. They create exercise plans to guide you through progressive resistance and aerobic/impact training to help improve bone mineral density and combat bone density loss. They also focus on balance training to improve your stability and decrease your risk of injury from falls.

Contact Maven today to see how our specialized exercise programs can help you combat osteoporosis.