You’ve been diagnosed with or told you are at risk of osteoporosis. You may have heard terms like low bone mineral density, crushed vertebrae, weak, fragile, or brittle bones and are wondering just how weak, fragile and brittle your bones actually are.
Now what? Can you continue to lead your normal life? Is there anything you can do? Are you likely to sustain an injury because of it? Can you recover if you do get injured?
What exactly is Osteoporosis?
It is a decrease in the density of bone which occurs when our bodies breakdown of our old bone becomes out of proportion with it building new bone. Osteopenia is the earlier stage where there is only a little loss in bone density. Osteoporosis is the progressed stage where loss is more significant.
As our bones lose their density, they become more prone to fractures or breaks with less impact or force being needed. There are a heap of reasons this can happen including older age, menopause and hormonal changes in women, some chronic conditions and medications, smoking, inactivity and poor diet.
What osteoporosis isn’t..
- Osteoporosis is NOT the end of your active lifestyle. In fact, it is an excuse to be more active
- Your bones are NOT chalk, they are NOT falling apart and you are NOT bound to a life wrapped in bubble wrap
- Osteoporosis does NOT mean you are guaranteed to sustain an injury but it can increase your chances
The good news is that osteoporosis can be managed and, under appropriate supervision, can actually be fun to address. Our bones are much like our muscles – ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. Exercise is one of the most accessible, least harmful and most important tools for managing the condition and, believe it or not, you can train your body HARD!
How can exercise help?
- Falls risk: Osteoporosis itself is not dangerous until you have an incident that exposes the bone to more impact, pressure or work than it is able to withstand – falls, for example. Decreasing your falls risk and improving your balance can help keep you safe from injury
- Challenging your bones: Our bones respond to the challenges we apply to them by making themselves stronger over time. Even with osteoporosis, an appropriate and progressive application of challenges, or load, can help to slow the progress and may even help rebuild your bones decreasing your risk of injury.
- Recovery from injury: Being fit, strong and healthy and participating in an appropriate rehabilitation program has been shown to lead to much better and long-term recovery if you do happen to sustain a fracture (especially in the hip) or injury as a result of your osteoporosis.
While osteoporosis may seem like a scary diagnosis you are still very much the boss of your own health. It is important to speak to your doctor and consult with a trained professional (Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist) before beginning or increasing an exercise program but there are plenty of accessible and fun thing you can do to keep your bones as strong and healthy as possible. Now is the time to get moving so you can keep moving!