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Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones in the human body lose essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium more rapidly than they are replaced. This leads to weakening and decreased density of the bones, resulting in an increased risk of fracture or breakage. Osteoporosis is common but avoidable and early detection can significantly reduce the risk of broken bones down the track.

Sun, soft tissue treatments, stretching and strength and conditioning can generally help sufferers of osteoporosis.

Quick facts

Fairly common
Medium difficulty to treat

Did you know?

1.2 million people estimated to have osteoporosis in Australia and further 6.3 million with low bone density.

source: Osteoporosis Australia

Osteoporosis can affect people of all ages and background – in fact it is a part of the natural aging process. As humans get older their bone density slowly decreases, weakening their bone structure and mineral content, therefore rendering them more susceptible to breaks or fractures.

Once a person with osteoporosis has fractured or broken a bone, it is four times more likely to happen again within the same year. This is known as the ‘cascade effect’. Although most healthy people’s bones should be able to easily tolerate a fall from a standing position, a person with osteoporosis may experience what is known as a ‘fragility fracture’, which can be dangerous if the sufferer is old or elderly.

Osteoporosis has almost no symptoms at all and will usually go undetected until a fracture or beak occurs – for this reason it is often referred to as ‘the silent disease’.

Physical therapies such as soft tissue treatments, stretching and strength and conditioning can help to ease the symptoms of osteoporosis.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

  • Age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Low calcium and vitamin D levels
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Obesity
  • Being underweight
  • Soft drink consumption
  • Low hormone levels
  • Thyroid issues
  • Chronic illness
  • Coeliac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Arthritic conditions
  • Some cancer medications
  • Corticosteroids (medication used for asthma, arthritis etc.)
  • Estrogen deficiencies
  • Race
  • Height (small stature)
  • Malnutrition
  • Eating disorders

Management of osteoporosis

People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis are often advised to make certain lifestyle changes in order to minimise the effect that it has on their day to day lives. If managed correctly, sufferers should not experience any symptoms such as pain or discomfort, but rather are simply at a higher risk of bone fractures or breaks.

There are medications that can be prescribed to encourage bone growth and development, thereby increasing bone density. Regular exercise is also encouraged, for its bone-building benefits as well as the increased support from muscle development.

Most importantly however is the prevention of fractures and breaks occurring in the first place, which are often caused by falling. Preventative measures against falls include:

  • Ensuring that optometrist prescribes aids such as prescription glasses or contacts are worn at all times
  • Avoiding medicines which cause dizziness
  • Removing anything that may cause you to trip, such as loose cords or rugs
  • Ensuring you have good lighting throughout your home
  • Wearing stable and supportive footwear
  • Practicing balance improving exercises
  • Exercising regularly to improve muscle strength
  • Placing non-slip mats in areas such as bathrooms and on stairs
  • Installing hand rails in areas where a fall is more likely to occur

Top tips for preventing the onset of osteoporosis

  • maintain a diet high in calcium rich foods
  • get regular exposure to sunlight, for vitamin D
  • take calcium or vitamin D supplements if it is difficult to obtain via diet or lifestyle
  • get regular physical exercise
  • avoid excessive alcohol consumption
  • avoid excessive soft drink consumption
  • quit smoking

Effective treatment of osteoporosis

Treatment of osteoporosis can differ from person to person depending on the circumstances of the individual. Most sufferers are prescribed medication to aid with the development of bone growth. These include:

  • Bisphosphonates
  • Strontium ranelate
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
  • Selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)
  • Denosumab
  • Testosterone therapy
  • Parathyroid hormone (PTH)
  • Teriparatide

Physical therapies such as soft tissue treatments, stretching and strength and conditioning may also help sufferers of osteoporosis.

This page has been produced, reviewed and approved by:

Dr Shermain Wong

BAppSc (Chiropractic), Masters (Clinical Chiropractic)

Photo of Dr Shermain Wong

Dr Shermain Wong is a chiropractor at Jurmaine Health with expertise in general treatment and over 6 years experience.

With a Masters in Clinical Chiropractic from RMIT University, Shermain has provided chiropractic and movement rehabilitation services at international sporting competitions, professional dancers, professional football players and professional athletes.

At Jurmaine Health, she helps patients address and treat common musculoskeletal symptoms and conditions, including back pain, neck pain; shoulder pain; nerve pain, joint pain and many other conditions

She is a member of Sport Medicine Australia, College of Osteopathy and Chiropractic Association, Australian Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine and International Society of Clinical Rehabilitation Specialists.

With her experience in Sports Medicine and treating Sports Injuries, she is a sought after expert for professional athletes and sports clubs. She has worked with the Coburg Lions VFL club, Melbourne Ice Hockey Women, World Ironman Championships, Australia CrossFit Regionals and others.

This document was last updated and reviewed in May 2016.

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