Osteoporosis literally means porous bone. The disease osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bony tissue. This leads to bone fragility and an increased risk of fractures. The hips, wrists and spine are especially vulnerable to injury. Osteopenia is a similar, but less severe, form of the same disease.
Osteoporosis has been called the ‘silent disease' because bone loss and deterioration may occur without symptoms. An individual may not be diagnosed with osteoporosis until a fall, bump or sudden strain causes a fracture. Other possible consequences of osteoporosis, such as collapsed vertebrae may occur so slowly that changes in height or posture may not be recognized as signs of potential bone loss.
It was once thought that osteoporosis was an old woman's disease. We now know, however, that osteoporosis is much more widespread. Osteoporosis affects men and women, young and old and people of any ethnic background. According to the 2000 census, there were 44 million Americans with low bone density or osteoporosis. Since that time, thousands more have been diagnosed. In just the southwestern Michigan counties of Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo and Van Buren, there are over 60,000 affected individuals.
There are several factors that increase your risk of being affected by osteoporosis or osteopenia. These include being small or having a thin build, anorexia, or Caucasian or Asian ethnicity. In addition, changing hormone levels, such as menopause, increase the risk of osteoporosis. Men with low hormone levels are vulnerable as well. Long term use of certain medications such as steroids also place you at higher risk. Smoking and excess alcohol intake are also risk factors for the development of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Exercise is vital for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Like muscles, bones need a moderate amount of stress to build and maintain strength. Muscle contractions pull on bones and provide just such stress. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or are at risk for it, it is important that the exercise you do is specifically designed for building bone strength and targeted towards especially vulnerable areas. Certain bones or portions of bones, such as the femoral neck (part of the hip), radius (one of the bones in the wrist) and the vertebral bodies (the thick part of the bones in the spine) are more often affected by osteoporosis than other bones. Therefore, treatment should focus on these areas more. However, as these spots may also be more fragile, there are some exercises and positions that should be avoided. Too much stress can cause damage. A health-care professional with specific training in osteoporosis can help you decide what exercises are safe for you, in order to help rather than harm your bone health.
Bones in Balance is a self-management and education program for people with osteoporosis or osteopenia that also have associated pain or postural changes. This unique program is offered through Lakeland Orthopedic Physical Therapy in St. Joseph.
Bones in Balance
Bones in Balance is a four-week program that is designed as a self-management program for anyone diagnosed with low bone density, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia, that also has associated pain or postural changes. Each week, a health care professional speaks on a topic important to those with low bone density. Those topics include:
- An overview of bone density testing and review of each individual's test results by a nurse educator.
- A review of calcium supplements also taught by a nurse educator.
- A healthy, calcium-rich diet, taught by a registered dietician.
- Medications used to treat low bone density, taught by a registered pharmacist.
- Emotional issues that may come about after being diagnosed with low bone density, taught by a medical social worker.
- Weekly instruction in weight-bearing exercises designed to strengthen bones, taught by a licensed physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.
Enrollment is limited to eight participants for each month-long class. Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Center for Outpatient Services on Hollywood Road in St. Joseph. Registration is required at least one month prior to the month in which you choose to enroll in the class. A fee of $25 covers the cost of educational materials, the balance of the tuition is billable to insurance. As Bones in Balance incorporates physical therapy services into each class, a physician's order is required to attend.
For more information, or to make an appointment, call (269) 556-7150.