What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become thin, fragile and brittle, leading to a higher risk of fractures (breaks or cracks) than normal bone. Osteoporosis occurs when more calcium is taken out of your bones than replaced. This results n a reduced bone density or “honeycombing” of your bone.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
There is no specific cause for osteoporosis. Your bones are constantly being renewed in a process where old bone is broken down, and new bone is produced to replace the old. This process occurs throughout our life and is usually in balance. However, several reasons can get out of balance and thinning of the bones can occur.
As we grow older, our ability to lay down new bone lessens, and if we become increasingly less active, we are increasing our risk of developing osteoporosis.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Several risk factors have been identified that can increase your inability to lay down dense bone, these include:
- Lack of Weight-Bearing Exercise
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Overactive thyroid or parathyroid glands
- Coeliac disease and other chronic stomach conditions
- Chronic liver or kidney disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Some cancers
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Diet lacking in calcium
- Lack of sunlight exposure, which may cause vitamin D deficiency.
However, the most essential factor is thought to be a lack of bone stress stimulating exercise. Exercise, especially weight-bearing and resistance exercises, help you to stimulate the production of new bone when you are younger and limits the loss of bone when you are older.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
If you have easily fractured a bone in your body or had a couple of fractures in a short period, our GP may discuss investigations for osteoporosis. Otherwise, there are not many symptoms to indicate you have osteoporosis.
How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
Osteoporosis is diagnosed with a special scan called a bone densitometry scan. This is usually done of the lumbar spine or the upper thigh bone, takes about 15 minutes, and lets you know how dense the bone is compared to people of your age.
The treatment of osteoporosis involves reducing any of the factors contributing to poor bone health. Your doctor may advise you to address your current exercise regime, review your medications or current lifestyle factors predisposing you to osteoporosis. Your doctor may also advise you to increase your:
- Calcium intake via your diet or with supplements. Calcium is used to build and maintain bone health.
- Vitamin D intake via supplements or exposure to low levels of sunlight. Vitamin D is used to absorb calcium in the bone and regulate calcium in the blood.
Your doctor can treat osteoporosis with medications designed to help reduce or reverse your bone loss.
These medications include:
- Bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Risedronate Actonel, Zoledronic/ Aclasta).
- Denosumab (Prolia)
- Strontium ranelate (Protos)
- Selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) (Raloxifene/Evista)
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
*For more information regarding medications, please consult your GP or specialist*
Exercise & Osteoporosis
Bones become stronger when a certain amount of impact or extra strain is placed on them. Regular weight-bearing and resistance exercises help you to stimulate the production of new bone (osteogenesis). Different forms of exercise have varying osteogenic effects on bone health depending on their impact on the bones.
In addition to improving your osteoporosis, exercise benefits your strength, coordination, and balance, which helps you prevent falls and improve your general physical health and well-being.
If you have moderate to severe osteoporosis, are at greater risk of falling, or have an osteoporotic fracture, you need to have appropriate exercises prescribed. Would you please ask your physiotherapist for the specific osteoporosis-appropriate exercises most suitable for you?
Osteoporosis is best prevented when you are younger. Your bone mass is at its peak between 18 and 25. The more bone mass you have before you age, the greater your chance of not being affected by osteoporosis. If you can increase bone mass by about 10%, you can delay the development of osteoporosis by 13 years and potentially reduce fracture risk by 50%.
Please consult your doctor or physiotherapist.
Common Causes of Upper Back Pain & Injury
Thoracic Spine Conditions
- Scheuermann's Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Rib Stress Fracture
Nerve-Related / Referred Pain
Article by John Miller
Youth Spinal Pain
Teenager Neck & Back Pain
Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to back pain, mainly due to a combination of high flexibility and low muscle strength and posture control.
The competitive athlete and most individuals who exercise regularly or maintain fitness and core stability control are less prone to spine injury and problems due to the strength and flexibility of supporting structures. Luckily, issues involving the lower lumbar spine are rare in athletes and account for less than 10% of sports-related injuries. Injuries do occur in contact sports and with repetitive strain sports. Your physiotherapist can assist in the resolution of any deficits in this area.
Sports such as gymnastics, cricket fast bowlers, and tennis have a higher incidence of associated lumbar spine problems related to repetitive twisting and hyper-bending motions.
Spondylolisthesis is a significant concern and needs to be appropriately treated by a physiotherapist with a particular interest in these types of injuries. Luckily, most injuries are minor, self-limited, and respond quickly to physiotherapy treatment.
Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries
Lower Back (Lumbar Spine)
Midback (Thoracic Spine)
Neck (Cervical Spine)
For specific advice regarding youth neck or back pain, please seek the professional advice of your trusted spinal physiotherapist or doctor.