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Spotlight on Osteoporosis

14 October 2020

Spotlight on Osteoporosis

person_outlineNicole Preskett
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1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will have a fracture as a result of Osteoporosis after the age of 50

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease process that causes weakening of the bones, making them fragile and more prone to fracture as result of a minor bump or fall.

It is so common that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will have an osteoporotic fracture after the age of 50.

Our bones are constantly regenerating themselves throughout our lives but this regeneration process slows down after the age of 40 and we start to lose the density of the bone.

Who gets it?

Factors such as a family history of Osteoporosis, history of fracture, low body weight, smoking, alcohol intake, steroid use and some chronic diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis can place you in a higher risk group. Menopausal women are more at risk as the lack of oestrogen speeds up the process of bone loss.

Diagnosis:

Osteoporosis is diagnosed when your bone significantly decreases in density and when there is a presence of factors that increase your risk of the disease. Bone density is measured using a specialised bone scanner called a DEXA scan. Your GP may decide to send you for a scan if they suspect you may be at risk; or you may be offered a scan if you fracture a bone in your wrist, hip or spine.

Medication:

Once a diagnosis of Osteoporosis is made, your GP may prescribe supplements such as vitamin D and calcium or if considered severe enough they may prescribe bisphosphonates which can help to increase your bone density or prevent it from getting worse.

Lifestyle:

  • A healthy balanced diet is vital to keep your skeleton strong. Aim to eat meals that incorporate all main food groups including fruit and vegetables; carbohydrates like bread, potatoes, pasta and cereals; dairy and alternatives; beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins. Aim for a healthy body weight to help protect your bones.

  • Calcium is vital for strong teeth and bones and most people should be able to get enough calcium through healthy eating, without the need for additional supplements.

  • Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium. Adequate amounts will also help keep muscles strong and help prevent falls in older people. You can get vitamin D by the action of sunlight on your skin and from food or drink containing natural or fortified vitamin D. Try to get short periods of sun exposure to your bare skin, once or twice a day, without sunscreen but taking care not to get burnt. Late March to the end of September is when the suns rays produce vitamin D. The UK government advisory committee recommend that everyone over 1 year of age should get 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day. Although this is possible with sensible sunlight exposure and eating the right foods, in the winter months a vitamin D supplement is recommended.

  • Smoking and increased alcohol intake can have a harmful effect on bone.

  • Weight-bearing exercise such as jogging, aerobics, tennis, dancing and brisk walking all help towards a stronger skeleton. However, those with Osteoporosis need to be careful of vigorous, high impact exercise and forward bending (touching your toes).

Osteopathy:

A common misconception is that Osteoporosis causes back or joint pain, but actually the only pain experienced is from the breaking of a bone or the from the mechanical changes that take place after a bone is broken.

As an Osteopath I treat the mechanical effects of Osteoporosis. When spinal “fragility fractures” occur in a patient with Osteoporosis, they are not only painful but can also alter posture, resulting in a more stooped upper back. This type of posture can put pressure on the joints in the spine and neck and cause aggravation to any existing wear and tear or arthritic changes.

A patient may complain of pain in the upper back when sitting for a long time, difficulty getting comfortable in bed, pain when walking a longer distance than normal, inability to take a deep breath and sometimes quite sluggish bowel habits and constipation.

When treating patients with Osteoporosis careful consideration is made on the techniques that I use. Gentle mobilisation and stretching to the spine and neck can improve mobility. Soft tissue therapy (massage) to the often over stretched or overly contracted muscles can help to reduce muscle pain and giving gentle home exercises for stability, balance, co-ordination and mobility can also be very helpful.

Spinal manipulation is never used in patients with Osteoporosis and in some cases treatment is given in a seated position if lying down puts more pressure on the spine.

If you are suffering from the effects of Osteoporosis and the postural changes that occur and have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the clinic where someone will be happy to help.

Nicole Preskett

Nicole Preskett administrator

I am a registered Osteopath, MSK Sonographer and co-owner of the BodyFix Clinic.

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