The definition of osteoporosis comes from, ‘Osteo’ – a prefix denoting bone and ‘porosis’ – implying the weakening of a structure or porous bone.
It’s the loss of boney tissue resulting in bones that are weakened and liable to fracture.
Who is at risk osteoporosis?
- Those with low body weight
- Maternal history of the disease
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Low dietary calcium intake
- Late puberty
- History of eating disorders
- Generally physically inactive
- High caffeine intake
- History of steroid use/treatment
- Previous fractures, particularly after menopause
Who can be affected by osteoporosis?
Worldwide it is estimated that 200 million women suffer from osteoporosis. It is unknown how many men suffer from the disease but it is on the increase. Although it is commonly thought of as an affliction of the older population, it can affect people of all ages. It is more common amongst the white and Asian population and less so in black populations.
What potential problems arise from osteoporosis?
The bones become weakened and result in low bone mass and are, therefore, more susceptible to a fracture. In the UK there are an estimated 60,000 hip, 50,000 wrist and 40,000 spine fractures due to osteoporosis every year.
Other fragility fractures are also associated with osteoporosis e.g. pelvis and upper arm.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men surviving to the age of 80 will suffer a hip fracture.
What are the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?
It is usually a silent disease until the individual suffers a fracture. However, there are many screening tests that can now be done and if you think you are at risk of osteoporosis from the risk factors above, it is advised to see your GP.
A Colles fracture is a break of the wrist and is most common among women aged between 45 and 65. It is often the first sign of osteoporosis.
Back pain can be a symptom of osteoporosis. Pain in the back can gradually creep up over time and your posture can become noticeably more flexed forwards. Over time, you can lose height too. Episodes of acute back pain which settle after a few weeks can be due to spontaneous vertebral fractures, caused by osteoporosis.
Physiotherapy and osteoporosis
Physiotherapy can have a key role to play in both the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. There are a number of ways in which we can help.
- Education on appropriate exercise, posture, diet and lifestyle changes. This can be both to prevent osteoporosis or help minimise it’s impact of you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
- Exercises to target vulnerable areas and help keep the bones and joints strong.
- Core stability and muscle strengthening exercise programmes.
- Balance exercises to help prevent falls.
- Advice on water-based exercises to help strengthen core stability, improve range of movement and reduce pain.
- Ongoing support in order to self-manage the disease in the long term including preventing and managing fractures.
The role of exercise in managing osteoporosis
Weight-bearing exercise is proven to have a positive effect on bone mass. The less weight that goes through the bones, the more likely they are to weaken further, so weight bearing and resistance exercises play a crucial part. Specific exercise, as prescribed by your physiotherapist, target the vulnerable areas of the body. Through strengthening the muscles and keeping joint stiffness to a minimum, you are less likely to suffer from pain and the risk of fractures may be reduced.
Other exercise to be considered:
We offer a range of services at goPhysio to help support you if you are looking to prevent or minimise the impact of osteoporosis. If you’d like any help or advice, please give us a call.