May is the National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention month and serves as a good time to remind everyone the role that physical therapy can play in treatment and prevention of the disease.
What is osteoporosis and how do I know if I have it?
Osteoporosis is defined as a weakening of the bones wherein they become less dense and, therefore, easier to break or fracture. Screening for osteoporosis involves a bone mineral density test, and this test can show current bone density and predict fracture risk. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 50 with one or more risk factors should consider having a bone density test done.
Who can develop osteoporosis?
Anyone, including men, can have osteoporosis, but risk factors for developing osteoporosis include: female gender, Caucasian ethnicity, advancing age especially post-menopause, small body size, inadequate calcium intake, and a sedentary lifestyle.
How can I prevent osteoporosis?
55 percent of Americans over the age of 50 (44 million Americans) have osteoporosis or are approaching osteoporosis with low bone density.
In 2005, osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for $19 billion in costs. This number is expected to rise to $25.3 billion in 2025.
Approximately one in two women and one in four men older than age 50 will have an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime.
A woman's risk for a hip fracture is equal to her combined risk for breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
At six months after a hip fracture, only 15 patients of hip fracture patients can walk across the room unaided.
Source: National Osteoporosis Foundation
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults ages 19-50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day and ages 50-plus should increase that consumption to 1,200 mg per day. Calcium is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.), nuts (almonds), and calcium fortified foods (orange juice, cereal, bread, soy beverages and tofu products). Other preventive measures can include avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake and including weight-bearing activities in your daily routine. Weight-bearing activities include walking, jogging, stair-climbing, jump-roping, soccer, tennis, basketball, dancing, hiking and weight-lifting.
What can physical therapy do for osteoporosis?
Treatment of osteoporosis often involves medications but may also include physical therapy. Physical therapy for osteoporosis is tailored to the person's fitness level, stage of osteoporosis and presence of a fracture. If the person has beginning stages of osteoporosis, but no fracture yet, treatment can include strengthening/resistance exercises to promote bone density and also postural retraining. If a person sits with poor posture and has too rounded of an upper back, their risk for spinal fractures (compression fractures) greatly increases. If the person has osteoporosis and has already suffered a fracture and/or fall, they may need pain relieving modalities as well as strengthening exercises and balance retraining to prevent future falls and fractures.
Contact your local family physician if you are interested in bone density testing, and to be seen in physical therapy for osteoporosis, a doctor's referral is needed. Trinity Regional Medical Center offers physical therapy at Highland Park Center; for questions or to make an appointment please call 574-6900.
Leah Eslick is a physical therapist at Trinity Regional Medical Center's Highland Park campus.