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, this 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.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Osteoporosis?
The term “osteoporosis” comes from Latin and literally means “porous bones”.
Thus, osteoporosis happens due to reduced bone density, or an actual thinning of the bones.
This condition changes the structure of your bones and causes them to become brittle and easily broken.
Throughout your life, bone tissue is constantly broken down and new tissue created, but as you get older this process slows down.
When healthy, your 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 this honeycomb structure.
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 include:
- Weak or brittle nails
- Receding gum lines
- Weakened strength in your grip
- Issues with your posture
- Shortness of breath
People with osteoporosis are more prone to suffering broken bones and fractures due to falling.
RELATED: Physical Therapy For Fall Prevention
Additionally, people with more severe cases may even experience a fracture from something as minor as a cough or a sneeze.
Another result of severe osteoporosis is that you may lose height due to compression fractures of the spine.
Osteoporosis Causes And Risk Factors
Osteoporosis can be hereditary.
This means that your risk of developing osteoporosis increases if you have a family member with the condition.
Additional factors can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Advanced age
- A change in hormone levels, such as during menopause
- Being small framed
- Being a woman, whether cisgender or transgender
- Having certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism or diabetes
Additionally, research implicates steroid use as a risk factor for the development of osteoporosis.
According to Cedars Sinai Hospital, this condition is referred to as “corticosteroid induced osteoporosis”.
Your risk of developing it increases the longer you take the steroids.
Further causes of osteoporosis can be attributed to lifestyle factors such as:
- Insufficient physical activity
- Poor nutrition
- Low vitamin D or calcium levels
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Lack of weight bearing activities
How Can Physical Therapy For Osteoporosis Help?
If you are seeing a physical therapist after a bone break due to a sports injury or a fall, they may suggest that you have a bone density scan to 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
Many medical institutions, such as Harvard Medicine recommends exercise for the treatment of osteoporosis.
And for good reason.
Exercise is a good way to strengthen your bones and avoid falls.
Weight bearing activities strengthen your muscles and help build bone density.
Such 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
Your muscle strength and bone density can also be improved by movements which push and pull on your muscles.
These types of movements are referred to as resistance exercises.
The following are some examples of resistance exercises:
- Using resistance bands or resistance machinery to improve muscle strength
- Gravity resistance exercises
- Push ups
- Leg lifts
3. Balance Improving Exercises
Your risk of falling and breaking a bone can be further reduced by improving your balance.
Your physical therapist may work with you to improve balance in the following ways:
- Toe raises and heel drops
- Wall slides
- Mild yoga poses
In more serious cases where your 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 explore ways 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.
RELATED: Ergonomics For The Workplace
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.
Early intervention will allow for healthy development and growth in your child.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
Are you dealing with bone density loss?
Or have you been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, osteopenia, or a related health condition?
If so, it’s never too early to seek help from a physical therapist at Capitol Physical Therapy.
We can help you assess your risk and take precautions to prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Our physical therapists can also play a key role in your treatment and recovery.
Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to find out more about how we can work to keep your bones strong and healthy.
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