Osteoporosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Osteoporosis originates from the Greek words ‘osteo’ for bone and ‘poros’ for cavity formation. ¬†It can be a debilitating and degenerative disease, leaving the sufferer with little mobility and loss of independence. ¬†There are things you can do however, to help keep osteoporosis from worsening, exercise being the most beneficial. ¬†We have a great range of strength equipment and weight bearing fitness equipment such as treadmills in the North East. ¬†This type of exercise will help build bone mass.

Definition

Osteoporosis is a progressive disease characterised by a reduction in the substance or mass of the bones and enlargement of the bone spaces, or is more simply explained as a thinning of the bones. Our bodies are constantly building new bone and removing old bone by the laying down and reabsorption of calcium. ¬†When the mid to late twenties are reached the bones will continue their maximum calcium content and are then at their greatest strength and density or ‘peak bone mass’. ¬†Then after maturity is reached at the age of around 30 – 40, gradual bone loss starts to occur at the rate of 1%a year, increasing to 7% in women in the first 10 years after the menopause as calcium is removed faster than it is replaced. ¬†Osteoporosis results from this gradual decrease in the amount of bone present.

Causes and Risk Factors

1.   Early menopause or hysterectomy Рunder 45 years.

2.   Prolonged amenorrhoea (loss of periods) Рmore than 6 months.

3.   Low calcium intake.

4.   Sedentary lifestyle.

5.   Long term high dose of oral steroids.

6.   Family history of osteoporosis.

7.   Vitamin D deficiency.

8.   Excessive consumption of protein, alcohol, fibre or caffeine.

9.   Heavy smoking.

10. Liver disease.

11. Small muscle and bone mass.

12. One or more prior fractures.

Osteoporosis can develop a secondary effect of cancers of the bone marrow, breast or other tissues.  American research has also shown that individuals who start to go grey young, in their early thirties, are six times more likely to be affected.

What are the Symptoms?

Unfortunately the beginning of osteoporosis mostly goes undetected.  Osteoporotic bones do not hurt and feel perfectly normal until they break or crush, hence it is usually only first diagnosed after a fracture has already occurred.

Fractures are the most common feature of osteoporosis and usually occur at the wrist, spine (which may be visible as ‘dowagers’ hump), hip, shoulder and pelvis.

How does Osteoporosis Affect the Sufferer?

As bones become thinner, they become easier to break and usual daily activities such as standing, walking and bending may be enough to cause a broken bone.  Having to cope with the chronic pain and discomfort from osteoporosis has both mental and physical effects:

1.   Decrease or loss of mobility, which may lead to hospitalisation and the need for constant care.

2.   Independence lost.

3.   Mood swings, depression, anxiety, fear, grief, hurt, anger and helplessness.

4.   Decreased self-esteem, isolation and fear of going out in public.

5.   Sexual dysfunction.

6.   Insomnia.

The Benefits of Exercise

Weight bearing physical activity is an essential requirement for bone health and the normal development and maintenance of a healthy skeleton and a routine should be established from childhood and maintained throughout life.  In addition it also strengthens muscles and improves posture and coordination, all of which decrease the frequency of falls and therefore the risk of fracture.  Unfortunately too few teenage girls and young women realise the importance of exercise and do none at all or not enough of the right sort of exercise.

Recommended Exercises

If you’re not sure what type of exercise would suit you, you might like to try hiring a cross trainer in the North East for 4 weeks to see how you get on with it. ¬†If you find it doesn’t work for you, you could hire a treadmill as jogging and brisk walking helps to build muscle mass. ¬†Strength equipment such as light weights for the upper body is excellent as is dancing, stair climbing etc. ¬†For the low fit or those with previous fractures, things like cycling using a cross trainer and swimming are all excellent with the appropriate instruction. ¬†All these activities can be combined into an exercise programme which should last between 30 – 40 minutes at least 3 times a week.

Our local Hartlepool Health Improvement Resource Service (HPAC) provides some excellent information on how to maintain strong bones, in the form of downloadable leaflets, on their website.

 

Neill Turner

Hire Fitness, North East

0800 612 6822