I have Osteoporosis - the physio can not help me.
The general belief is that once you are diagnosed with osteoporosis you need to be wrapped in cotton wool and bubble wrap because the slightest bump or stumble can cause your bones to break. On the contrary, you with your calcium deficient skeleton should be exercising daily and even lifting a bit of weights.
Osteoporosis, which means porous bone, occurs when there is an imbalance between your body producing new and absorbing old bone. Your body “renews” bone to strengthen and increase bone mass. Around age 30 the mass stops increasing and it becomes even more important to incorporate the necessary lifestyle changes to maintain as much bone mass for as long as you can. When you enter your 40’s and 50’s bone resorption usually starts taking place faster and a possible imbalance can occur.
Although commonly described as an old person’s disease, osteoporosis can occur at any age and is more common in woman than men. Other risk factors include
- Family history
- Early menopause
- Calcium and/or Vit D deficiency
- Extended bedrest
- Physical inactivity
- Smoking – causes malabsorption of vitamins and minerals
- Poor diet
Unfortunately, you will probably not know that your bone density is low until you break a bone or realise that you are getting shorter - more than 4cm loss after starting menopause is considered significant. The good news is that it can be tested. Bone densitometry (DEXA) scan is a simple, painless procedure very similar to an x-ray. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends woman over 65 and men over 70 should have this included in their annual checkups every second year and yearly if there is any abnormalities to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment plan.
You are never too young to care about your bone health. We cannot control everything that happens to our bodies but by incorporating the following guidelines will help to give yourself the best fighting chance.
- Ensure a balanced diet with food rich in calcium and Vit.D
- Be physically active - your physiotherapist will be able to help you with a safe exercise program that suits your lifestyle and goals
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Drink alcohol moderately
- Stop smoking
A physiotherapist’s role in your osteoporosis journey, whether you are wanting to prevent it or are already diagnosed, is to educate and help you with an appropriate exercise program. The benefits are endless and well known of being physically active but particularly weight and/or resistance training has been found to have a direct effect on bone density.
- At a young age it helps to build up to a higher bone mass peak
- In postmenopausal years it slows down bone loss
- It decreases the risk of falling by improving balance and co-ordination
- Increases the time a person is able to live independently due to increase strength and fewer falls.
Your “brittle bones” should not limit your quality of life, you just need to be informed. It is never too late to increase your bone density and you shouldn’t shy away from cardiovascular exercises and weight/resistance training. Discuss the many options with your physiotherapist to ensure you are performing at your best in a safe and controlled way.