Osteoporosis is a common condition that many people live with today. Osteoporosis occurs when the bones in your body become weak over time. It is known as a silent disease, as you cannot see or feel your bones getting weaker. Sometimes the first sign of osteoporosis is when you experience a broken bone or you notice that you have become shorter in stature.
There are certain factors that can put you at risk for developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors you have control over. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, these risk factors include but are not limited to having a low body weight and a sedentary lifestyle. Other factors you have no control over, such as family history of osteoporosis and being female.
Making lifestyle changes related to those risk factors over which you do have control can help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Healthy eating habits, eliminating tobacco use and limiting alcohol intake can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Additionally, vitamin D and calcium are important nutrients that help build strong bones. Discussing need for these additional vitamins with your doctor maybe helpful.
Exercise can help build strong bones and prevent further bone loss when performed correctly. Two types of exercise that can help to build strong bones are weightbearing and muscle strengthening exercises. Furthermore, exercises that focus on improving your posture as well as your balance can also help to reduce your risk of falling and breaking a bone. Additionally, exercise can provide whole-body benefits. Those at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis should begin their prevention plan early on.
Muscle strength training helps build stronger muscles, which in turn, helps to support surrounding bones and joints. Strengthening exercises involve moving your body either with or without weight. Starting out with a lighter weight, and ensuring proper form is always recommended. A physical therapist can assist in helping guide you to developing a safe and appropriate strengthening routine.
In addition to muscle strengthening exercises, weightbearing exercises are another way to combat osteoporosis. Low impact exercise is the most appropriate choice for patients who demonstrate bone loss. Low impact exercises such as walking, gentle yoga, and using an elliptical are great introductory exercises.
Many people prefer to exercise in a group setting and participate in structured classes such as yoga, tai chi or pilates. It is best to discuss each desired activity with your doctor as there can be certain moves that individuals with osteoporosis should avoid. For example, excessive bending or flexing forward can create a significant amount of strain on the bones of the spine.
It is also important to maintain good posture and balance if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Improving your posture can help to limit any added strain on your joints as well as your spine. In most cases, people tend to sit or stand in a forward-bent position, adding more pressure to the bones in their spine. Correcting your posture will reduce the stress on your bones and allow your muscles to do the majority of the work. Also, improving your overall balance and lowering your risk of falling will help individuals reduce their risk of bone fractures and additional injuries. A physical therapist can help assess your balance and provide guidance on safe exercises to complete in order to reduce your risk of falling.
It is very important that an individual is participating in a safe exercise, posture, and balance program if diagnosed with osteoporosis. All exercise programs should be approved by a doctor prior to starting, particularly if the osteoporosis is advanced. Consult with your doctor to set up an appointment with a physical therapist to develop an individualized program today.
Melissa McGowan is a licensed physical therapist who specializes in orthopedics and oncology rehabilitation. McGowan is also a certified lymphedema therapist.