Healthy bones can help you stay strong and active throughout your life. If good bone health is achieved during childhood and maintained, it can help to avoid bone loss and fracture later in life. For bones to be healthy, it is important to maintain physical activity with a healthy, balanced diet full of calcium, vitamin D, and other supplements as needed.
Calcium and Vitamin D as part of a Balanced Diet: May require supplementation. Best bet is to contact your physician!
So what is a physical therapist’s role in bone health?
Physical Therapists are experts in the movement system. They can help patients achieve peak mobility and strength, all while keeping your individualized care in mind. The advanced knowledge of PTs is especially important for patients who already have compromised bone health or risk for fracture like: osteoporosis, female athlete triad, fad dieters, obesity, post-menopause age, long-term steroid therapy, cigarette smoking, high alcohol intake. This is not a complete list! Based on information HERE: Fracture Risk Factors!
What is osteoporosis and what does it have to do with physical therapy?
Osteoporosis is a common bone disease that affects both men and women (mostly women), usually as they age. It is associated with low bone mass and increased fragility of bones, making them more susceptible to breakage. This is typically diagnosed by a physician with a bone mineral density scan, taking into account blood levels of vitamin D, calcium, and history of prior fracture. For more information about osteoporosis in general look at: National Osteoporosis Foundation!
Physical therapists are the ideal providers to create an exercise program for those individuals who have osteoporosis, osteopenia (low bone density, but not quite osteoporosis), or those who have risk factors for fracture or falling. PTs are trained, as part of their 3 year doctoral program, to understand postural alignment, movement, gait analysis, balance, and the importance of weight bearing exercise to increase bone density and prevent injury.
So what are weight-bearing exercises and how can I do them?
First off, noone who is at risk for falls, fracture, or who has a known medical condition should start an exercise program without the consultation of a physical therapist or physician first!
Second, weight-bearing exercise includes anything the stresses the bones through their long axis. This includes:
Walking (best results for strengthening the femoral neck, thereby decreasing risk for hip fracture)
Yoga (Controversial: may provide whole body weight-bearing, however, can increase risk of lumbar bending which can increase compression fractures; Additionally, fall risk should be assessed before performing higher level balance exercises.) Read more here: Yoga, vertebral fractures, etc.
Dancing (Those dancing with the stars celebrities are protecting their bone density!)
Tai Chi (TONS of benefits, see effects on bone density HERE)
So, isn’t this just for “older” people?
NO! Starting healthy habits sooner ensures more compliance later. It is much more difficult to start an exercise program after diseases or injuries have already occurred, so better sooner than later!
Additionally, your peak bone mass is about 18 in women and 20 in men…. so START NOW!
For fun activities for your loved ones who are younger check out: Best Bones FOREVER!
What does posture have to do with it?
Obviously, as a physical therapist, I am biased about good posture. However, I know how hard it is to make this a habit. The reason it is so important is that proper posture can prevent injury, pain, falls, and FRACTURE. This is critical for those high risk people! Here are some tips:
Remember the plumb line: Keep ears in line with shoulders in line with hips in line with ankles. See PLUMB LINE!
Use pillows when sitting or lying to support yourself in a good position.
Bend your knees and keep your back relatively straight while you lift things. Always keep loads close to your body.
Maintain regular fitness as staying active can prevent injuries.
Remember: By 2020, over 50% of Americans are expected to have osteoporosis. Let’s try to keep that number lower and reduce fracture risk in the future!
If you feel you are at risk or you already have osteoporosis, call us today at Legacy Physical Therapy to set up an appointment to see how physical therapy can help. 636-225-3649
Karla Wente, PT, DPT, CLT
Legacy Physical Therapy
Clinical Resident in Women’s Health Physical Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis