Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more susceptible to breaking. The most common sites for fractures to occur are in the hip, spine and wrist. Bone is living tissue that goes through constant building up and breaking down. Osteoporosis begins when there is too much bone being broken down and not enough being rebuilt making the bones more porous and brittle. The early stage is called osteopenia. This is when bone mass is lower than average, but not low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis.
The Effects of “The Silent Disease”
In the early stages, osteoporosis has few physical signs. Often it is called a silent disease because you may have it for years before realizing. There are signs that can alert you to having osteoporosis:
- Unexplained sudden back pain
- Loss in height
- Hunch back
- Fracture from minimal trauma
- History of recurrent fractures
- Diagnosis of Osteopenia
- Caucasian or Asian descent
- Small build
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Too little exercise
- Early menopause
- Low estrogen levels
- Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
- Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption
- Diet low in calcium or Vitamin D
- History of eating disorders
- Use of certain medication, such as steroids, thyroid hormone and anticonvulsants
- Adults with irritable bowel syndrome
Preventing bone loss and avoiding fractures are the most effective therapies for osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy is generally the treatment of choice in prevention. Other ways are:
- Maximizing peak bone mass through weight-bearing exercises (walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing) especially in adolescence and young adulthood when peak bone mass is established.
- Avoidance of substances that limit bone growth and development (steroids, tobacco, caffeine and alcohol).
- Having a diet that includes adequate amounts of Vitamin D and calcium
- Avoiding falls, getting regular eye exams to assess depth perception, being aware of medication whose side effect may alter balance, and getting regular exercise to strengthening muscle and improve balance.
Detection and Treatment
Physicians can detect early signs of osteoporosis with a simple, painless bone density test call bone densitometry. If your bone mass is low, your physician may prescribe medication, dietary changes or exercise. All three are essential components of a successful treatment program.
Appropriate physical exercise is an important compliment to current preventative treatment strategies for osteoporosis. Bellin Physical therapists can offer the proper training to maximize the benefits of exercise. This will include:
- Knowledge, skills and support in treating osteoporosis and osteopenia to improve the quality of life and preserve independence.
- Development and instruction in an individualized therapeutic exercise program to strengthen bone through the performance of safe weight-bearing exercises and site-specific strength training.
- Instruction in safe body mechanics to minimize injury risk and decrease the threat of fractures.
- Postural retraining education and awareness in a variety of positions
- Fall prevention safety tips and balance training.