Osteoporosis - when a little trip in the garden can change your life.
- Emily Sando, Exercise Physiologist
When a minor trip in the garden can change your life…
Here’s the scenario – my patient goes walking everyday, they have a healthy diet and sit in a ‘healthy’ BMI or weight range. One day they stumble in the garden, and find themselves unable to get back up. They end up in hospital having surgery for a fractured hip. This is a really common theme with people who are referred to me with osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis means “Brittle Bones”, and occurs when the body cant produce new bone as quickly as its being broken down. Osteoporosis is a silent disease, it doesn’t present with any symptoms that would cause you discomfort or pain. Often people don’t know about it until they suffer their first fracture. However, some people might notice they are shrinking, and are starting to get a curvature of their upper back.
The amazing thing I find with osteoporosis, is that people don’t realise they can prevent or reverse it, with exercise. But sorry, walking is simply not enough.
In order to make bones stronger, we need to place stress on them. We need to keep them guessing, and pull at them from every angle possible. What does that actually mean?
- Lift heavy weights (as the muscles contract they pull on the bones)
- Incorporate impact such as jumping, skipping and hopping (the impact of landing sends a significant force through the bones)
- Do a variety of exercises, and change up your program regularly (the bones will adapt, and will get used to a movement quickly)
Unfortunately , for many people with osteoporosis, its not appropriate to be incorporating heavy weights and impact. This might be because of
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Lack of balance and stability / falls risk
- Being new to exercise and lacking correct technique
An exercise physiologist can work around these potential barriers and make sure your program is safe for you. There are also certain movements that are considered unsafe when exercising, so it is important to speak with an exercise physiologist to make sure you are not completing movements that might place you at risk of fracture.
As osteoporosis is a silent disease, it’s important to get a bone scan to check in. These are often done every 2 years from the age of 70, but can also be checked at a much younger age for people at increased risk. This might include people who:
- Have been on corticosteroid treatments (such as prednisolone), which is commonly used for asthma/eczema/respiratory issues or inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Have been on medications such as methotrexate for cancer or arthritis
- Have low hormone levels ; particularly women who experience early menopause
- People with thyroid conditions
- People with malabsorption issues such as IBS or coeliac disease.
- Excessive alcohol use
Finding the right program for you if often not as simple as walking into the gym and completing a circuit of machine weights, so please speak to an Exercise Physiologist to get the right advice and keep your bones happy!