Osteoporosis and Physical Treatment
- Osteoporosis is a bone disease which affects 11% of men and 27% of women over the age of 60 in Australia.
- It is often caused by hormonal changes associated with ageing.
- An osteoporotic bone is one with reduced density and strength.
- Our bones, due to the weight-bearing stresses placed on them every day, are constantly being remodeled by two specialised cells called osteoclasts (bone absorbers) and osteoblasts (bone builders).
- In healthy bones, the actions of these cells are balanced so that more bone is being laid down then removed. However, osteoporotic bones lose minerals (e.g. calcium) faster than they can replace them, causing brittleness and an increased risk of fracture.
- Some clinical symptoms to look out for include: back pain, bone fractures, kyphosis (abnormally curved spine), a decrease in height, as well as a decrease in activity tolerance.
- Physical therapy – including weightbearing, balance, and postural exercises are very effective parts of our physiotherapy program to manage osteoporosis. They involve movement and weight bearing which improve activity tolerance to decreased pains and poor postures.
- Regular weightbearing exercises (e.g. walking) promote osteoblast activity by generating stress on bones. As mentioned the osteoblasts are ‘bone builders’ – so this weight bearing works to increase the bone density and mass.
- Balance exercises that target core and postural muscles (e.g. standing on one leg with your eyes shut) reduce the risk of falls and subsequent fracture. This is important as osteoporotic bones are at greater risk of fracture from lighter stresses.
- Postural exercises that focus on extension movements (e.g. hip extension and scapular retractions) help counteract abnormal spinal curves by strengthening the muscles of your posterior chain (muscles on the back of the spine). This is vital to improve / maintain the strength of the bones by holding them in the most optimal alignment for weight bearing and use.
Take Home Messages:
- Osteoporosis is the process where bones lose minerals faster than they can replace them
- It causes a decrease in bone density and strength which can lead to pain, poor postures, decreased activity tolerance and an increased risk of fractures
- Healthy bones balance the work of osteoclasts (bone absorbers) and osteoblasts (bone builders) to maintain bone density. This process becomes unbalanced in osteoporosis
- Weight bearing increases positive stresses placed on the bones – which promotes work of the bone builders. This leads to an increased bone density
- Research shows that balance Exercises reduce the risk of falls. This will decrease the chance of fractures in osteoporotic bones
The difference between Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis?
Read our article on Osteoarthritis