While osteoporosis is a generally well-known condition, its prevention and treatment may be less understood. In this article, we’ll share more about the disease itself, its causes, and what you can do to prevent and manage the condition.

What Is Osteoporosis?

As KCP physical therapist Joy Pfuhl says, “Osteoporosis is a common occurrence. It’s when you’re actually losing density within your bone structure. Your bone is breaking down on a micro level and is no longer as architecturally strong.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Osteoporosis is a bone disease that develops when bone mineral density and bone mass decrease, or when the structure and strength of the bone changes.”

It’s often referred to as a “silent” disease. “Osteoporosis is just kind of sitting there, not causing any symptoms, and then it can rear its ugly head and be pretty devastating,” Joy says. “You might have a fragile bone that you’re not aware of, and then you just fall and break your femur.”

Fractures are much more likely for people with low bone density, which means that prevention and treatment are both important aspects to discuss.

Causes and Prevention of Osteoporosis

While excellent habits can help delay or prevent the onset of osteoporosis, some risk factors cannot be avoided.

Females are more susceptible to osteoporosis. According to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation, about 80% of Americans with osteoporosis are women.

Hormone levels play a significant role in maintaining bone density. Estrogen is a hormone that protects bones; when estrogen levels begin to drop during menopause, women become much more susceptible to bone loss and potential fractures as a result.

Other risk factors can include genetics, predisposing medical conditions, and body frame size (smaller frames are at greater risk).

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Healthy habits (such as staying physically active, eating a calcium and Vitamin D rich diet, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding smoking, and taking prescribed medications) can all be beneficial.

How Can Physical Therapy Help Someone with Osteoporosis?

“Strength training and weight bearing are huge for osteoporosis and osteopenia,” says Joy. “When you do strength training, you’re getting a pull on the bone as you strengthen that muscle. That pull on the bone puts tensile forces on the bone.”

Joy suggests a well-rounded approach to fitness and health to manage osteoporosis. “I’ve always said – Sleep right, eat right, exercise right. For exercise: You should be stretching. You should be strengthening. You should be doing cardiovascular, and you should be doing balance training. It’s not just walking. It’s not just strength training. It’s all those things, because that’s what we need for our bodies to be in their optimal condition. You need to do all those things.”

As the American Physical Therapy Association says, “Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.”

Further, they note that a physical therapist can develop a specific program based on your individual needs to help improve your overall bone health, keep your bones healthy, and help you avoid fractures.

Fitness Programs and Strength Training at KCP

At KCP, senior fitness classes and individual 1:1 fitness sessions help clients improve their strength, balance, and posture. Our physical therapists assess new clients for current abilities and limitations to determine your best course of action. Clients can then benefit from customized workouts supervised by physical therapists and exercise specialists.

If you’d like to learn more about managing your osteopenia and osteoporosis through our training programs, we invite you to schedule a consultation with us soon!