Physical Therapy for Osteoporosis
Our Physical Therapy for osteoporosis programs are designed to counteract one major issue: as you age, you can lose more bone than you form. Many people think of bones as hard and lifeless. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Bone is growing and living tissue made up of three compounds that make them flexible and strong.
Bone Across the Lifespan
Throughout your life, your body is in a process of making new bone while losing old bone. Children and teenagers form bone faster than they lose bone. This continues even after they stop growing. This allows our bones to be become more dense until they reach peak bone mass, which is the most amount of bone you will have in your life. Peak bone mass usually occurs between the ages of 18 and 25. It is believed that the more bone you have during this age range of peak bone mass, the less likely you are to get osteoporosis later in life.
As we age, it is possible to lose more bone than we form. After we reach peak bone mass, the balance between bone loss and bone formation can start to change. Bone loss usually speeds up for both men and women in midlife. Bone loss in women typically increases during menopause when estrogen levels drop sharply. In the years after menopause, women may lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density.
It is vitally important to take steps to protect your bones.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Bones?
Osteoporosis and broken bones associated with osteoporosis are not part of normal aging. You are never too young or too old to improve your bone health and density. The lifestyle choices you adopt now can affect your bone health for the rest of your life. It is time to take action NOW!
Eat a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D.
Engage in regular exercise that emphasize weight bearing and muscle strengthening.
Eat foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that are rich in vitamins and minerals needed for good bone health.
Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake.
Nutrition for Bone Health
It is essential to learn about foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients that are important for your bone health and overall health. A diet with calcium and vitamin D is essential to building strong, dense bones when you’re young and to keep them strong and healthy as you age. The foods below are suggestions to help achieve good bone health.
Fatty varieties such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines have Vitamin D
Spinach, beet greens, okra, tomato products, artichokes, plantains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens and raisins have magnesium.
Tomato products, raisins, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, papaya, oranges, orange juice, bananas, plantains and prunes have potassium.
Red peppers, green peppers, oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, papaya and pineapples have vitamin C.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens and brussel sprouts have vitamin K
Exercise to Stay Healthy
Counteract the effects of osteoporosis with exercise. Physical therapy for osteoporosis is an essential part of managing the disease. The exercise component for bone building or slowing bone loss is very specific and similar for all ages. Bone grows when it is sufficiently and properly stressed, just as muscle grows when challenged by more than usual weight. Two types of exercise are optimal for bone health: weight-bearing and resistance.
Let our Doctors of Physical Therapy provide your individual bone-building prescription to ensure that you are neither over- or under-exercising. Typically, exercises are performed 2 to 3 times a week as part of an overall fitness program.
Goals of our Physical Therapy for Osteoporosis Programs
- Build bone or lessen the amount of bone loss at areas most vulnerable to fracture through exercise—hip, spine, shoulder, arms
- Improve your dynamic balance to avoid falls
- Improve your posture and your work and living environments
- Help you avoid exercises and movements that may contribute to spinal fracture, including any type of sit-up or crunch, and excessive spinal or hip twisting
- Optimize your exercise program to promote bone growth or lessen bone loss
- Improve the strength of your back muscles
- Improve your hip strength and mobility
Examples of weight-bearing exercises
- Racquet sports
- Heel drops
Examples of resistance exercises
- Weight lifting
- Use of exercise bands
- Water resistance
- Gravity resistance (eg,push-ups, sustained yoga poses)
Can a Physical Therapy for Osteoporosis program help me if I have a fracture?
Conservative treatment of a fracture includes bed rest and appropriate pain medication. Our Synergy Doctors of Physical Therapy will work with you to:
- Decrease your pain through positioning and other pain-relieving modalities
- Provide appropriate external devices, such as bracing, to promote healing and improve posture
- Decrease your risk of a fall, strengthen your muscles, and improve your postural alignment
If your pain lasts longer than 6 weeks following a fracture, you can discuss surgical options with our Synergy Physical Therapists, primary care physician, and surgeon.
Falls can diminish your ability to lead an active and independent life. About one third of people over the age of 65 and almost half of people over the age of 80 will fall at least once this year. Often, there are several reasons for a fall. Our Doctors of Physical Therapy will help you reduced your risk of falling with a program that does the following:
- Assess your risk of falling
- Helping you make your home as safe as possible
- Educating you about the medical risk factors linked to falls
- Designing individualized exercises and balance training
- Working with other health care professionals and community services to create programs for people who want to reduce their risk of falling
Am I at Risk of Having a Fall?
- Being 80 years old or older
- Leg muscle weakness
- Difficulty with balance or walking
- Vision problems (cataracts, macular degeneration, wearing bifocals)
- Medical conditions that limit your ability to get around, such as Parkinson disease, stroke, or diabetes
- Conditions that cause confusion, such as dementia and Alzheimer disease
- Taking more than 4 medications at the same time or psychoactive medications (such as sedatives or antidepressants)
- Using a cane or other walking device
- Home hazards (throw rugs, pets underfoot)
- Low blood pressure
The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. The factors associated with the greatest fall risk are:
- A history of previous falls
- Balance problems
- Leg muscle weakness
- Vision problems
- Taking more than 4 medications or psychoactive medications
- Difficulty with walking
What Can a Synergy Balance Screening Tell You
- A review of your medical history
- A review of your medications
- A simple vision test
- A home safety assessment
- A simple screen of your thinking abilities
- A check of your heart rate
- Blood pressure measurements while you change positions (from sitting to standing)
- Feet and footwear assessment
- Assessment of any nervous system disorders, such as stroke or Parkinson disease
Our Synergy Doctors of Physical Therapy will also:
- Measure your leg strength, using simple tests such as timing how long it takes you to risk from a chair
- Determine how quickly and steadily you walk
- Assess your balance—for instance, by having you stand on one leg or rise from a chair and walk
- Use special tests to measure your balance
Outdoor Safety Tips for Fall Prevention
- Wear low-heeled shoes with rubber soles for more solid footing (traction), and wear warm boots in winter.
- Use hand rails as you go up and down steps and on escalators.
- If sidewalks look slippery, walk in the grass for more solid footing.
- In winter, carry a small bag of rock salt or kosher salt in your pocket or car. You can then sprinkle the salt or kitty litter on sidewalks or streets that are slippery.
- Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Floors made of highly polished marble or tile can be very slippery. When these surfaces are wet, they may become dangerous. When floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, stay on them whenever possible.
- Keep your porch, deck, walkways and driveway free of leaves, snow, trash or clutter. Also keep them in good repair. Cover porch steps with a gritty, weather-proof paint and install handrails on both sides.
- Turn on the light outside your front door before leaving your home in the early evening so that you have outdoor light when you return after dark.
- Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack or a backpack purse to leave your hands free.
- Use a walker or cane as needed.
- Find out about community services that can provide help, such as 24-hour pharmacies and grocery stores that take orders by phone or internet and deliver, especially in poor weather.
- Stop at curbs and check the height before stepping up or down. Be careful at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline may lead to a fall.
- Consider wearing hip protectors or hip pads for added protection should you fall.
Indoor Safety Tips for Fall Prevention
Around the House
- Place items you use most often within easy reach. This keeps you from having to do a lot of bending and stooping.
- Use assistive devices to help avoid strain or injury. For example, use a long-handled grasping device to pick up items without bending or reaching. Use a pushcart to move heavy or hot items from the stove or countertop to the table.
- If you must use a stepstool, use a sturdy one with a handrail and wide steps.
- If you live alone, consider wearing a personal emergency response system (PERS). Also consider having a cordless telephone or cell phone to take from room to room so you can call for help if you fall.
- Remove all loose wires, cords and throw rugs.
- Keep floors free of clutter.
- Be sure all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor.
- Do not use slippery wax on bare floors.
- Keep furniture in its usual place.
- Install grab bars on the bathroom walls beside the tub, shower and toilet.
- Use a non-skid rubber mat in the shower or tub.
- If you are unsteady on your feet, you may want to use a plastic chair with a back and non-skid legs in the shower or tub and use a handheld showerhead to bathe.
- Use non-skid mats or rugs on the floor near the stove and sink.
- Clean up spills as soon as they happen (in the kitchen and anywhere in the home).
- Keep stairwells well lit, with light switches at the top and the bottom.
- Install sturdy handrails on both sides.
- Mark the top and bottom steps with bright tape.
- Make sure carpeting is secure.
- In addition to indoor and outdoor hazards, certain lifestyle behaviors can make a person more likely to fall. Here are some lifestyle tips to help you:
- Be careful about drinking alcohol. Alcohol slows reflexes and may cause confusion, dizziness or disorientation. Too much alcohol can also cause bone loss.
- If you are in a hurry, slow down. Accidents are more likely to happen when you rush.
- Stay alert and focused when in public places.
- Remember to wear appropriate shoes both indoors and out.
- Exercise and eat healthy at every age. A healthy diet includes having a well-balanced diet that contains the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.