When we say we hope to “grow old gracefully”, we usually mean that aging is a privilege and not something to be fought.
But the fact is that while our minds may grow stronger, and wiser, with age, it is not always the case for our bodies.
As we age, our bodies can become frailer, which can lead to a series of health issues.
If you are one of the more than 53 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with or are at risk of developing osteoporosis, then you may need healthcare more often.
But if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, there’s no reason to think that you can’t continue to be strong.
Actually, strength training is one way to slow down the impact osteoporosis can have on your day to day life.
Adding a good program of physical therapy for healthy seniors into your routine makes all the difference in maintaining orthopedic health as you age, regardless of whether you have osteoporosis.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Osteoporosis?
The term “osteoporosis” comes from Latin and literally means “porous bones”.
Osteoporosis happens due to reduced bone density, or an actual thinning of the bones.
This condition changes the structure of the bones and causes them to become brittle and easily broken.
Throughout your life, bone is constantly broken down and new bone tissue created, but as you get older this process slows down.
Bone tissue has a honeycomb like structure running through it.
Osteoporosis disrupts the creation of new bone tissue and causes a widening of the gaps in the honeycomb tissue.
The result is low bone density, where bones lose strength and fracture easily.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis you are much more prone to bone fractures or breaks.
Symptoms of osteoporosis are sometimes described as “silent” as often you don’t know something is wrong until you experience a fracture.
While there are not usually immediate symptoms, some early signs that you could be developing osteoporosis are:
- weak or brittle nails
- receding gum lines
- weakened strength in your grip
Osteoporosis usually affects the bones in your wrists, hips, ribs, and spine.
Symptoms of osteoporosis in the spine are more severe and include neck or back pain and a stooped posture similar to kyphosis.
Broken bones usually happen from a fall, but in more severe cases of osteoporosis, a fracture could happen with something as minor as a sneeze or cough.
Another result of severe osteoporosis is that you may lose height due to compression fractures of the spine.
Osteoporosis Causes & Risk Factors
Osteoporosis can be hereditary, so if there is a history of the disease in your family then you could be at risk.
These further factors also mean you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis:
- Age: over the age of 30 our bones stop being replaced as fast as they break down.
- Hormones: changes in hormone levels, such as menopause, cause an increase in bone loss.
- Small frame: if you are smaller boned, your bones may become weaker as you age.
- Gender: osteoporosis affects a higher percentage of women, both cisgender and transgender, than men. However, anyone can develop it.
- Medical conditions: conditions such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes can lead to development of osteoporosis, as can the long term use of certain medication such as steroids.
Further causes of osteoporosis can be attributed to lifestyle choices such as:
- Insufficient physical activity
- Poor nutrition
- Low Vitamin D or Calcium levels
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Drug or alcohol use
- Lack of weight bearing activities
How Can Physical Therapy For Osteoporosis Help?
If you are seeing a physical therapist after a break due to a sports injury or a fall, they may suggest that you have a bone density scan, which can help with a proper diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, then a DC physical therapy clinic will be an important part of your treatment.
Your physical therapist will teach you a series of exercises designed to rebuild bone tissue and help slow the progression of the condition.
Physical therapy will also help you to avoid further injury by focusing on posture and balance.
Let’s take a look at some of the activities you can expect.
1. Weight Bearing Exercises
Exercise is a good way to strengthen your bones.
Weight bearing activities strengthen your muscles and help build bone density.
These bone building activities may include:
- Using dumbbells or ankle weights to build your strength
- Climbing stairs
- Hip strengthening exercises
- Jogging (if your current condition allows)
- Racquet sports
2. Resistance Exercises
Pushing and pulling on your muscles also increases muscle strength and encourages your body to increase bone density.
The following are some examples of resistance exercises:
- Using resistance bands or resistance machinery to improve muscle strength
- Gravity resistance exercises
- Leg lifts
3. Balance Improving Exercises
Improving your balance reduces your risk of falling and breaking a bone.
Your physical therapist may work with you to improve balance in the following ways:
- Toe raises and heel drops
- Wall slides
- Mild yoga postures
In more serious cases where balance has become compromised, you may work with a vestibular rehabilitation physical therapist to stimulate your brain and rebuild your balance.
This therapy may include:
- Vestibular therapy exercises to retrain your brain
- Gaze stabilization exercises
- Habituation exercises that allow you to practice in situations where you may find yourself dizzy or disoriented
4. Posture Improving Exercises
Throughout physical therapy treatment, strong emphasis is placed on correct posture.
If you have osteoporosis in your spine, you will perform targeted exercises to realign and reset your posture, which both provide relief and encourage your body to heal correctly.
You will learn to modify your behavior to avoid activities that involve bending forward or twisting.
Shoulder and upper back exercises also help you to improve posture.
Your physical therapist for posture may ask you to examine your workspace and make ergonomic modifications to improve your posture.
5. Physical Therapy For Children With Osteoporosis
Though osteoporosis affects mainly aging adults, children with health issues, such as diabetes, cerebral palsy, or Crohn’s disease, are also at risk for loss of bone density.
Your physical therapist will work with you and your child together, teaching exercises to aid in the development of healthy bones.
The emphasis will be on proper exercise and posture.
Proper conditioning is crucial at this young age, as the majority of bone is created during adolescence.
Taking action early in the child’s life will allow for healthy development and growth.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
If you are suffering from bone density loss, have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or if you think you are at risk, it is never too early to start treatment.
Our therapists at Capitol Physical therapy can play a key role in your treatment and recovery.
Contact us today to start your journey towards stronger and healthier bones.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC