Osteoporosis and Physical Therapy

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October 21, 2013 by inspiritpt

Your 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 fracture. Your physical therapist may teach you:

  • Specific exercises to build bone or decrease the amount of bone loss
  • Proper posture
  • How to improve your balance so as to reduce your risk of falling
  • How to adjust your environment to protect your bone health

Healthy bone is built and maintained through a healthy lifestyle. Your physical therapist will teach specific exercises to meet your particular needs.

The exercise component for bone building or slowing bone loss is very specific and similar for all ages. Bone grows when it is sufficiently and properly stressed, just as muscle grows when challenged by more than usual weight. Two types of exercise are optimal for bone health, weight-bearing and resistance.

It is best for a physical therapist to provide your individual bone-building prescription to ensure that you are neither over- or under-exercising. Typically, exercises are performed 2 to 3 times a week as part of an overall fitness program.

Weight-bearing exercises

  • Dancing
  • Jogging
  • Racquet sports
  • Heel drops
  • Stomping

Resistance exercises

  • Weight lifting
  • Use of exercise bands
  • Water resistance
  • Gravity resistance (eg,push-ups, sustained yoga poses)

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis or low-bone density, your physical therapist will work with you to:

  • Build bone or lessen the amount of bone loss at areas most vulnerable to fracture through exercise—hip, spine, shoulder, arms
  • Improve your dynamic balance to avoid falls
  • Improve your posture and your work and living environments
  • Help you avoid exercises and movements that may contribute to spinal fracture, including any type of sit-up or crunch, and excessive spinal or hip twisting

Conservative treatment of a fracture includes bed rest and appropriate pain medication. Your physical therapist will work with you to:

  • Decrease your pain through positioning and other pain-relieving modalities
  • Provide appropriate external devices, such as bracing, to promote healing and improve posture
  • Decrease your risk of a fall, strengthen your muscles, and improve your postural alignment

If your pain lasts longer than 6 weeks following a fracture, you can discuss surgical options with the physical therapist, primary care physician, and surgeon.

For children and adolescents, physical therapists can educate families and youth groups on proper exercise, posture, and the need to move daily. Children with health issues such as spina bifida, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and cerebral palsy are at a greater risk for bone disease and can particularly benefit from the guidance of a physical therapist. The majority of bone is built during adolescence and peaks by the third decade of life.

If you are middle-aged and older, you may begin to notice postural, balance, and strength changes. Your physical therapist will work with you to:

  • Optimize your exercise program to promote bone growth or lessen bone loss
  • Improve your dynamic balance to avoid falls
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve the strength of your back muscles
  • Improve your hip strength and mobility


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