14 October 2020
Spotlight on 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.