The Facts on Osteoporosis | Upwell Health
Updated April 6th 2021
Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Looking for the best ways to keep your bones strong and prevent injury? Early treatment can help. Even though there is no cure for this disease, you can reduce its symptoms and prevent complications. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and physiotherapy can make all the difference.
What Is Osteoporosis?
More than 200 million worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. About 3.3 percent of Australians were diagnosed with this condition between 2011 and 2012. Many of them are struggling with chronic pain, brittle bones, and fractures, which affects their daily life.
This disease causes over 8.9 fractures annually. This can lead to disability and costly medical bills. When you have osteoporosis, your bones become weak and brittle. Simple things, such as coughing or taking the stairs, can lead to fractures. The spine, hip, and wrists are the most vulnerable parts of the body.
Osteoporosis affects both men and women. It occurs when bone density decreases and the formation of new one is reduced. Menopausal women are at greater risk due to their estrogen levels. This hormone helps maintain bone density and strength.
Most people experience no symptoms in the first stages of the disease. As their bones become weaker, they begin to feel pain. Over time, their risk of fractures and falls increases. You might not know you suffer from osteoporosis until you break a bone.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this condition. A calcium-rich diet combined with strength training can lower your risk of osteoporosis. If you’re overweight, lose the extra pounds. Excess weight puts stress on your bones, leading to fractures in the arms, wrists, and knees. WATCH our video on 3 exercises for stronger bones.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is caused by a variety of factors. Ageing, poor nutrition, hormonal imbalances, genetics, and lack of exercise are common risk factors. Previous fractures weaken your bones and increase osteoporosis risk by a whopping 86 percent.
As you age, your bone density decreases. This process starts around age 35. A sedentary lifestyle and nutrient deficiencies can speed up its progress.
The amount of bone mass you attached in your 20s determines how likely you are to develop this disorder. For instance, athletes and physically active people have more bone mass, which lowers their risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Research shows that women carry less bone mass than men. Additionally, they lose it at a faster rate. When their estrogen levels begin to drop, bone mass decreases. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Low body weight (BMI < 20)
- Being overweight or obese
- Cigarette smoking
- Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies
- Kidney failure
- Liver disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome, and other conditions affecting nutrient absorption
- Prolonged or extreme dieting (which lowers estrogen levels)
- High-intensity exercise and overtraining
- Age ≥ 65 years
- Chronic glucocorticoid use
- Body frame size (people with small body frames are at greater risk)
- Overactive thyroid
- Gastrointestinal surgery
- Certain medications for cancer, gastric reflux, or seizures
- Corticosteroids, antidepressants, and sedatives
This illness is more common in those with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, kidney disorders, and Celiac disease. Prolonged sitting increases your risk too. However, your lifestyle choices have the biggest impact. Bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and sitting for long hours, affect bone mass.
Signs and Symptoms
Osteoporosis is a silent disease. Most times, it’s diagnosed in late stages when treatment options are limited. Common symptoms include postural changes, bone pain, and osteoporotic fractures. This condition also increases your risk falling affects your ability to carry out normal activities.
In late stages, you may experience sharp pain in the bones. The pain can be made worse by activities that put stress on the affected areas. If you’re at menopause and feel severe pain in your bones or muscles, consult your doctor.
This condition is responsible for over 1.6 million fractures annually. It is estimated that one in six women and 25 percent of men will develop osteoporotic hip fractures during their lifetime. Osteoporosis may also lead to vertebral fractures, which cause severe back pain, reduced mobility, deformity, and poor pulmonary function. These symptoms can affect your quality of life as well as your self-esteem. Depression, distorted body image, and anxiety are common among those struggling with osteoporosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Most health professionals use X-rays to detect changes in bone mass and structure. Unfortunately, about 30 percent of bone mass is lost by the time of diagnosis. For this reason, more and more clinics are now using DEXA scans to measure bone density.
According to The National Osteoporosis Foundation, all menopausal women as well as those over 65 should consider DEXA testing. Unlike X-rays, this test emits less radiation and more accurate results.
Treatment aims to improve a patient’s quality of life and reduce the risk of future fractures. It usually involves medications that increase bone strength, stop bone loss, and promote bone formation.
Lifestyle changes are crucial. Patients are advised to quit smoking, limit their alcohol intake, and start a weight training program. Also, it’s important to consume more calcium and limit processed foods.
How Effective Is Physiotherapy in Osteoporosis Treatment?
Physiotherapy has emerged as one of the best ways to manage osteoporosis symptoms. This form of treatment can help relieve chronic pain and improve physical performance. The exercises recommended by physiotherapists, or exercise physiologists, have the role to strengthen your bones and increase their mobility.
An experienced therapist can help slow down bone degeneration and restore joint function. They will also prescribe exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding your bones. This can lower your risk of fractures and boost range of motion.
Studies indicate that physical therapy can improve muscle function and quality of life in people with osteoporotic vertebral fractures. In a clinical trial involving 20 subjects, those who performed daily home exercises as part of the treatment reported significant reductions in back pain. Other studies have found that physiotherapy may help prevent osteoporosis and increase bone density.
Depending on the stage of the disease, a physiotherapist may use manual therapy or recommend strengthening exercises. He will also advise you what to eat to keep your bones strong and prevent the loss of bone mass. If you’re healthy, you can consult a therapist to learn about the best prevention methods.