Bones are made up of living cells that age, break down, and are removed and replaced by new cells. When you’re young, new bone cells are created and replaced faster than old cells are removed, resulting in healthy bone growth and increased density. As the body ages, the renewal of bone cells slows down. Eventually, older bone cells start to break down faster than new bone cells can replace them, leading to some loss of bone density. This is a natural process that happens to the human body and when monitored can easily be lived with. Some people, however, lose too much bone density resulting in more fragile bones.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Under a microscope, bone tissue with osteoporosis may appear full of holes like a sponge. As the condition progresses, the bones may become weaker and more brittle. This increases the risk for bone fractures, severe back pain and “shrinking” of height. Bone fractures – especially in the hip or spine – can be quite serious, potentially leading to disability and increased risk of death.
Who is at Risk of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis can impact anyone of any age, ethnicity or sex, but is most prevalent in postmenopausal women of European or Asian descent. Having a small frame or stature also can increase your risk, because it means that you have less bone mass “in reserve,” leading to more detrimental effects of bone loss. Other potential risk factors include:
- Family history
- Low sex hormone levels or high thyroid hormone levels
- Poor calcium intake or absorption
- Long-term use of corticosteroids or other medications that interfere with bone density
- Medical problems such as cancer, lupus, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco use
During the early stages, osteoporosis shows little to no symptoms. Unless you receive regular bone scans, the first indication of a problem may be a bone that fractures too easily, such as with a mild fall, bump, or even cough. This is why it’s important to have your bone density checked as you age, so the condition can be monitored before reaching advanced stages.
Fighting Back Against Osteoporosis
At St. Charles Physical Therapy, we believe in taking a strong, multidisciplinary approach to treating or even preventing osteoporosis and its complications. In addition to bone scans and medications, we offer lifestyle guidance and other tools including:
- Weight bearing exercises that influence bone health
- Endurance activities that promote overall wellness
- Balance and fall prevention
- Activity modification to enhance safety
- Referral to other professionals such as: nutritionists, general care practitioners, alternative medicine doctors, and other health professionals
According to the World Health Organization: “falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.”1 This is why fall prevention is incredibly important for patients with osteoporosis. Our physical therapy staff will work with you on weight bearing strengthening, balance training and activity modification to promote good bone health and prevent risk of falls.
Call St. Charles Physical Therapy today at 541-706-5940 to schedule an appointment to keep your bones strong and maintain the battle against osteoporosis.
The experts at St. Charles Physical Therapy offer compassionate care for patients living with osteoporosis in Central Oregon.