October is National Physical Therapy Month! So, don’t forget to give your physical therapist or physical therapist assistant a hug today. One topic that is constantly resurfacing for physical therapists is osteoporosis. This week’s column will review the definition, cause and prevention. Next week, I will present the 10 best exercises to prevent osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis means porous bone "osteo" meaning bone and "porosis" meaning porous. It is a disease in which bone loses mass or density, which leads to structural deterioration. Over time, this fragile bone is not strong enough to withstand the forces of gravity and changes may occur in the shape of the bone. In the spine, vertebrae which are normally shaped like square blocks, deteriorate and change shape to resemble a codfish. Then, the spine as a whole, changes shape and develops a forward curve called kyphosis. Kyphosis can cause a “hunch back” appearance. The deteriorated bone is more susceptible to fractures, especially in the spine, hip and wrist.
Osteoporosis is a very common problem. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 55% of people over 50 years of age have osteoporosis. 80% of those with osteoporosis are women. One in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have a fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime. It accounts for 1.5 million fractures per year at an annual cost of more than 18 billion dollars.
Bone loss silently occurs without symptoms. If not tested, most people are unaware of bone loss until severe deformity, loss of height or fracture is noted. However, several risk factors should encourage regular testing:
Osteoporosis can be detected early by a painless and quick test called a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test. Medicare and most other health insurers pay for the test every two years. If you are concerned and have several risk factors talk to your family physician about a BMD test.
While there is no cure for osteoporosis, being proactive can prevent, retard or stop the progression of this disease:
NEXT MONDAY – Read “10 Best Exercises to Prevent Osteoporosis” by Dr. Paul J. Mackarey in the “Health & Exercise Forum!”
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.