Do You Have Osteoporosis?
By Laurence Schubert APAM
By Laurence Schubert APAM
Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by a very low bone mineral density. This is caused by a gradual process in which the body is not producing enough bone, losing too much bone or both. Osteoporotic bones are fragile and are extremely susceptible to breaks, from small forces that would normally not be detrimental.
Osteoporotic bones have a loss of bone density, decreased mass and there may be changes to the structure of the bone matrix, which lead to further instability.
Who does it affect?
Most commonly women are affected more than men, affecting over 15% of women over the age of 50. Osteoporosis is a progressive disorder so worsens with age, if untreated.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Osteoporosis will often go unnoticed until damage has already occurred. In many cases, the first sign is when the first bone is broken. Whilst fractures are the most significant sign of this disease, osteoporosis may cause the back to have an increased curvature (often as a result of spinal wedge fractures). Pain is also present when the bony tissue is unable to withstand normal forces.
The issue with fractures, other than obvious discomfort is the significant effect it has on mobility. In the elderly population, having a decreased independence drastically impacts quality on life and there is also a heightened difficulty in returning to full function. If the spine is affected by osteoporosis then fractures may result in a hunched posture which increased compressive pressure on internal organs and may lead to respiratory issues.
What causes it?
Osteoporosis is a metabolic condition, meaning that there is greater bone break down than there is bony production. In the proceeding stages of this condition, it is often referred to as osteopenia. Typical causes of osteoporosis include gastrointestinal conditions that prevent calcium absorption, lack of calcium or vitamin D and smoking.
Certain medications increase the risk of acquiring the disease. For example, long term steroid use will often cause bone loss and osteoporosis.
Sedentary lifestyle also increased your chances of having the disease. Placing more loads through the bones has shown to increase bone production, therefore a history of low impact activities increases your risk. As a result, osteoporosis has shown to be an issue amongst professional cyclists and swimmers.
How Can Physiotherapy Help?
Osteoporosis is a manageable condition that can be slowed down or even reversed. Physiotherapy exercises are a very effective way to safely build up your bone density. Through weight bearing and resistance based exercises, exercise modifications have shown to be very effective. Falls risk is also an importance factor when considering osteoporosis. If someone has a high falls risk, then fractures are much more likely. Therefore, physiotherapy can appropriately address any balance issues. Some medication can also be useful for treating osteoporosis. In order to find out if you have osteoporosis, a bone density scan (DEXA scan) is the most effective option. Please refer to your GP to get a scan organised.