What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means porous bones. The inside of a bone looks like a sponge. In people with osteoporosis, the holes in this "sponge" are larger and more numerous, making the bone weaker and less dense. People with osteoporosis have such fragile bones that even a minor fall can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis leads to 1.5 million fractures each year.
What causes Osteoporosis?
Protecting your bones is a lifetime job. Although osteoporosis is considered a disease of aging, the root of the problem is actually in adolescence when most of our bone mass is developed. Teenage girls are often more concerned about their figures than their bones, so they may avoid milk, cheese and other high-calcium foods at a time when extra calcium is needed for strong bone formation. When the diet is low in calcium, the body takes it from the bones to maintain the blood calcium level. For this reason, people of all ages need to eat foods high in calcium. Weight-bearing exercises such as brisk walking, running, tennis, low-impact aerobics and weight-lifting also help strengthen bones.
Signs of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is called a "silent disease" because early bone loss often occurs without any pain or other symptoms. Osteoporosis is not evident on X-rays until it is quite advanced; however, a bone densitometer, can detect osteoporosis in the early stages. The loss of height or a broken bone is usually the first sign of osteoporosis. As the spine fractures and collapses, the spine curves, often giving the person a severely bent posture and a "dowager's hump" at the top of the spine. Pain is common in these later stages of osteoporosis.
How can Physical Therapy help with Osteoporosis?
Physical Therapist can assist patients in developing an appropriate weight bearing exercise program for all ages. Posture education is also important to decreasing fracture risk and the development of a Dowager's hump. Balance exercise can decrease patient's fall risk which leads to fractures. Fall risk can be decreased by knowing the proper home safety adaptations to make. Physical Therapist can discuss these with you. Nutrition recommendations to maintain healthy bone growth is also discussed with patients.