Exercise for Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
by Mary-Anne Camenzuli
Osteoporosis is one of the most common bone diseases, and is a major health concern globally. In 2005, the cost of osteoporosis in the US was estimated to be upwards of $17 million, and it is expected that this annual cost will rise to $25 million in 2025. According to a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) the prevalence of osteoporosis in Australia (diagnosed and undiagnosed) is approximately 23% in women, and 6% in men, aged over 50 years. So, what exactly is it? It’s classified as a condition in which bones become weak and are therefore more susceptible to fracture. Bone remodelling is a normal ongoing process which allows the removal of bone tissue and replacement with new bone tissue. Osteoporosis occurs where the rate of bone loss is much higher than bone formation. Loss of bone without replacement leads to frail, weakened bones. Osteopenia is essentially a mid point to developing osteoporosis, where your bones are weaker than normal, but not quite osteoporotic.
Am I at risk?
Here are the risk factors for osteoporosis & osteopenia:
- History of bone fracture after the age of 50
- Current low bone mass
- Peri/post menopausal women
- Small stature/thin
- Advanced age
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Low testosterone levels in males
- Inactive lifestyle
- Currently smoking
What does the current research tell us about treatment?
Centuries of research show that load bearing exercise positively contributes to bone mass and architecture. This however is only one of the many important reasons for exercising as a prevention or management strategy for osteoporosis. Muscle strengthening has been shown to improve gait (locomotion), prevent falls; and improve overall function in activities of daily living and cardiovascular health. Successful management of osteoporosis usually involves a combination of a structured exercise program and pharmacotherapy as needed. The choice of pharmacotherapy is dependent upon the individual. The aim of an exercise program is to improve strength for stability of the spine and limbs and prompt essential mechanical strain to maintain bone health. It is therefore recommended that an exercise program focuses on the spinal stabilizing muscles and muscles of the upper and lower limb. The intensity of an exercise program will be dependent on bone health and muscle strength and should be developed by a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
What can I do for myself to prevent or treat osteoporosis?
Generally, reducing risk factors can improve bone health, and this may include making positive lifestyle changes which contribute to musculoskeletal health. For women, it is suggested that greater bone health at the time of menopause, the lower risk of developing osteoporosis. An exercise program at any age, with a strong focus on spinal stability is necessary to prevent spinal crush fractures and associated back pain.
Both our physiotherapists and exercise physiologists at MPPFG are qualified to manage osteoporosis prevention and treatment. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or are looking to prevent osteoporosis in the future, contact one of our physiotherapists or exercise physiologists on (03) 9534 0611 for an appointment or for more information.
Sinaki, M & Pfiefer, M. (2017). Non-Pharmacological Management of Osteoporosis. Springer international publishing.
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