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Osteoporosis—Ever Heard of it?

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength that predisposes an individual to an increased risk of fracture. It is often silent and goes unnoticed until a fracture occurs. The most common fracture sites are the spine, hip, forearm, humerus, and pelvis. It is estimated there are 10 million Americans who have diagnosed osteoporosis.

What Increases Risk of Osteoporosis?

  • Female genderOsteoporosis Physicaltherapy
  • Age > 65 years
  • Family history of osteoporotic fracture
  • Fracture with minimal or no trauma after age 40
  • Vertebral compression fracture
  • Low vitamin D levels and low dietary calcium
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Post-menopausal body weight that is < 132 lbs. or weight that is more than 10% below body weight at age 25 years

Testing for Osteoporosis

The World Health Organization classifies individuals based on their bone mineral density described as a T-score. Normal bone mineral density is a T-score of > -1.0. Low bone density, known as osteopenia, is defined as a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5. Osteoporosis is defined as a T-score of > -2.5 or evidence of a frail fracture.

How Can I Prevent it?

Individuals who are at risk for osteoporosis can benefit from consulting a physical therapist. Physical therapists are movement experts who can educate the patient on bending and lifting activities that pose a risk for fractures. It is also important to discuss diet and modifiable lifestyle choices such as smoking or alcohol use that increase risk for developing osteoporosis. PTs can use objective measures to assess fall risk and based on the results can suggest an appropriate assistive device to improve safety around the individual’s home and community. Strength and balance training is important to maintain bone health and decrease susceptibility to future falls.

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This post was written by Jillian Lonowski. Jillian is a third-year physical therapy student from the University of Nebraska Medicine Center. She is currently on a clinical rotation with TEAM physical therapist Jeff Denson at our Broken Bow location.