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Articles by our Physical Therapists

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6. Have Osteoporosis? You Don't Have to Crack Under the Pressure!

Have Osteoporosis?  You Don’t Have to “Crack” Under the Pressure!

Osteoporosis is the loss of bone mass to the point that it becomes fragile and could potentially fracture – any bone can be affected.  Osteopenia is a less severe form of osteoporosis.  The first signs of osteoporosis include postural changes, loss of height, loss of teeth, stress fracture or non-traumatic fracture, and certain types of back pain.  Osteoporosis is usually diagnosed using a DEXA scan to determine bone density – this would be ordered by your family physician.

One of the most important treatments of osteoporosis is prevention.  Some risk factors include:  smoking, sedentary lifestyle, low testosterone, low calcium and vitamin D, prolonged use of steroids, diuretics, heparin/coumadin, and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and COPD.  Some of these factors are easily avoidable (sedentary lifestyle), but others are entirely out of your control.  Other treatments address your diet, appropriate medications as directed by your doctor, and exercise.

Exercises include weight-bearing activities such as low-impact aerobics (walking, jogging, etc), light resistance exercises (weight lifting and/or wearing a weighted vest), and postural correction activities.  

Yup, your mother and grandmother were right:  good posture is important!  By correcting your posture to more upright positioning, you decrease compressive forces through your spine, correct muscle imbalances (long and weak vs. short and tight muscles), and decrease your risk of injury.  Weight bearing activities increase force on the bone, thus triggering your body to increase bone density.   Load must be beyond normal daily activity and the benefits last only as long as the activity is maintained.  Recommended exercise amount is 30 mins 3-5x/week.  Prior to beginning any exercise program it is always important to be cleared by your doctor, and I highly recommend consulting your friendly neighborhood physical therapist to develop an individualized exercise program suited for you and your specific needs. 

Written by Jodi Flanagan, MPT

Published Feburary 2011

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