Unfortunately, osteoporosis is very common and affects over 1 million Australians—particularly middle-aged and elderly women (although it can occur in men too). It is a disease of the bones, causing them to become brittle, which results in more frequent breakage than normal. This happens because the bones lose calcium and other minerals faster than they can be replaced, leading to a reduction in bone density. Under a microscope, a healthy bone resembles a honeycomb. However, osteoporosis sufferers have larger holes in their bones, showing that they have lost bone mass. This means their bones are weaker than people with healthy bones.
If you are an osteoporosis sufferer, then you will require certain medical treatment and changes to your lifestyle so that you can slow down the loss of bone density and reduce your risk of fracture and breakage.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Interestingly, osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as “The Silent Disease” because many suffers don’t know that they have this disease until they have a breakage or fracture of the bone (as there are very few—and sometimes no—symptoms). In serious cases, even a sneeze, cough, or knock can cause bone breakage.
- Easy breakage of bones or fractures—especially in the hip or wrist area—which may otherwise not happen if bones are healthy.
- Back pain can be a symptom often caused by a collapsed (compression) or fractured vertebra.
- May result in development of a stoop over time.
- May result in reduction of your height over time.
Benefits of Physiotherapy for Osteoporosis
There are numerous benefits to using physiotherapy as a method for treating patients with osteoporosis. Apart from alleviating pain and discomfort, qualified physiotherapists are able to help improve bone and muscle strength and slow down the degeneration of bones. It is also used as a treatment to improve overall mobility and posture, and to prevent falls and further fracturing.
- Physiotherapy will strengthen the core muscles, thus improving posture when standing.
- Physiotherapy can help to alleviate pain in the upper and lower back.
- Physiotherapy is a good treatment to help strengthen bones in the hip, spine, and wrist areas.
- Physiotherapy can increase muscle strength, particularly in the back, upper body, and legs.
- Use of physiotherapy can increase lean muscle and reduce fat, thus improving weight management.
- Use of physiotherapy exercise will help increase flexibility and balance, thereby reducing the chances of falling and fracturing bones.
- Physiotherapy gives osteoporosis patients better strength and helps them gain confidence.
- Using physiotherapy in osteoporosis makes you better able to deal with day-to-day tasks, thereby improving lifestyle.
- Physiotherapy can also improve your general health and well-being.
- Gentle exercise will improve your bone strength, thereby reducing chance of fracture and breakage.
Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis Symptoms
Unfortunately, once you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis it is incurable. It is manageable, however, and deterioration can be slowed down with a program of medication, exercise, and physiotherapy. If you already have a family history of osteoporosis, you can prevent it by leading a healthy lifestyle, including exercising regularly, eating well with plenty of foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. Exercising a lot in your pre-teen and teenage years greatly reduces the chances of osteoporosis later on. You may also be able to take a supplement, but seek medical advice first. At Active Physiotherapy we recommend:
- Ensuring you exercise regularly (adults should exercise at least 2.5 hours per week).
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
- Include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese.
- Consider a calcium supplement after seeking medical advice.
- Maintain a healthy bodyweight, as underweight women are more likely to have brittle bones (as are those suffering anorexia).
- Choose physiotherapy as a treatment to strengthen your bones and muscles.
- Get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine, as it is an excellent source of Vitamin D.
- If you have a family history of osteoporosis, then start exercising as early as you can, from your pre-teen years.
- Speak to your GP if you are taking long-term medication such as heparin, corticosteroids, various diuretics, and anti-convulsants, as these could be a contributory factor to osteoporosis.