What Is Osteoporosis?

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is decreased bone density, or weak bones. It can lead to brittle bones, which increases your chance of fractures, particularly if you have had falls in the past or have a high risk of falls/poor balance.

What causes Osteoporosis?

Many of the risk factors associated with osteoporosis are not easily modified, such as;

  • Being female (women start with a lower bone density than males and lose it at a faster rate due to a reduction in oestrogen after menopause)
  • Aged 55 years and over
  • Family history of osteoporotic fracture
  • Previous fracture
  • Some medications or multiple medication combinations, including prolonged corticosteroid use
  • Other medical conditions including malabsorption conditions (Coeliac disease, IBS)

Modifiable risk factors include;

  • High alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Lack of Vitamin D – either lack of sunlight exposure or dietary vitamin D
  • History of low BMI
  • Low or no physical activity

What are the symptoms of Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis itself is not symptomatic, but there are several signs to look out for that might indicate osteoporosis. These include;

  • Presence or history of a fracture occurring after small force – e.g. fracturing a bone as a result of a bump or knock
  • Loss of height, usually over 4cm
  • Curved upper spine

The best way to diagnose Osteoporosis is to speak to your doctor and organise a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan). This is a scan of your body (usually your hip and your spine) to get a measure of your bone density. Osteoporosis is diagnosed when your bone density falls below a certain level. Osteopenia is low bone density but not as low as Osteoporosis.

How can Physiotherapy help in the management of Osteoporosis?

Physiotherapists help individuals maximise function through movement by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

Research indicates that the maximum bone mass is achieved by the late twenties.  Adults should aim to maintain strong bones and optimise muscle strength through exercise.

Exercise causes stresses across the bone matrix resulting in increased bone density to cope with the load.  In contracts, inactivity can lead to weakened muscles and reduced bone load, therefore reducing bone density over time.

Research shows that both weight-bearing exercises and resistance training can promote bone health. The key, however, is to be doing exercise that is new or a challenge for the bones. If you are doing exercise that your bones are used to, then they see no reason to change.  So, for people doing resistance training, the exercises, or the weight used, needs to change periodically for bone health to keep improving.

A word of caution:

In the older person, changes in other areas of your body also occur. This includes our connective tissues – ligaments and tendons – meaning our joints are not as mobile or as strong as they once were. High- impact exercises, such as jogging, jumping or aerobic dance places more stress through the joints such as the hips and knees. More importantly, the reduced strength of our tendons and ligaments also influences our pelvic floor muscles.

What Fitwise can offer you?

  • Individualised consultations with experienced Physiotherapists to create an exercise program specific to you and your needs.
  • Fitwise runs ‘Strengthwise’ – an exercise class aimed at the mature woman. These fun group classes use weights and bands in a safe and effective manner to improve strength, flexibility and balance.

Dennise Smith
Senior Physiotherapist
Consulting at both our East Melbourne and Armadale practice

For more information, or to book, click on “Make a Booking” at the top of the page or call our friendly team on (03) 9822 4999 (Armadale) or (03) 9486 0512 (East Melbourne).  Alternatively, you can email us at fitwise@fitwise.com.au if you have any questions.

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