Osteoporosis is a very common disease affecting 54 million Americans. On average, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men age 50 and older will suffer a fracture from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis related costs are $19 billion annually, with 2 million fractures generated every year. That’s a lot of broken bones! While genetics and being post-menopausal play a role, there’s a lot you can do to prevent osteoporosis. Once diagnosed with osteoporosis, treatment is available from your doctor, and be sure to ask for a referral to a physical therapist.

First off, what is osteoporosis?

Here is what you need to know about your bones

Every minute of every day your bone cells are building bone, and at the same time other bone cells are breaking down bone. Your bones remodel all the time. A healthy body balances the actions between the bone building cells and the bone breaking cells, leaving you with strong healthy bones. When the body stops making enough bone, loses too much bone or both, we can develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis actual means “porous bone” and as you can see below, the bone tissue becomes much less dense with bigger holes. This leads to weaker bones that are susceptible to fracture from a fall or in worse cases from minor bumps or even sneezes!

cross-section image of normal and osteoporosis bonesOsteoporosis is a silent disease because you have no symptoms of bone loss. There are risk factors that may predispose you to osteoporosis. If you have any of these risk factors, consult with your physician about next steps or further testing.



Let’s take a look at common risk factors for osteoporosis:

Diseases linked to Osteoporosis

  1. Autoimmune Diseases (RA, Lupus, MS, Ankylosing Spondylitis)
  2. GI Disease (Celiac, IBD, weight loss surgery)
  3. Cancer of Breast or Prostate
  4. Blood Disorders (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, sickle cell disease)
  5. Nervous System Disorders (stroke, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, MS)
  6. Mental Illness (eating disorders, depression)
  7. Endocrine/Hormone Disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s Syndrome, early menopause, low testosterone in men, hyperparathyroidism, irregular periods)
  8. Any other disease or surgery that affects a major organ system (kidney, GI, liver, etc.)
  9. Some medications (please consult with your doctor)
  10. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol use

Other risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis and a fracture from a ground level fall.

There are many things you can do to promote healthy bones

The best medicine is prevention.

First off, build strong bones through a healthy diet and exercise throughout your life. Here are the best foods to include in an osteoporosis prevention diet:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables every day to include dark leafy greens
  • Calcium containing foods such as broccoli, almonds, okra, figs, salmon, oranges and dairy
  • Vitamin D supplementation or 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight 3 times weekly
  • Avoid processed foods, alcohol and excessive caffeine

Help your bones grow stronger through exercise.

two people doing yoga pose by lake

There are two main types you can do daily to improve bone strength:

  1. Weight bearing exercises: Yoga, Tai Chi, walking and jogging are all forms of weight bearing exercises. The more you put repetitive weight bearing stress through your bones, the stronger they become. The more sedentary you are, the weaker your bones become.
  2. Strengthening exercises: Using weights, resistive bands or your body weight, you can strengthen your bones by making your muscles stronger. It is recommended that you perform squats, lunges and weight exercises for your arms and legs 3 times weekly for healthy bones.
  3. Balance exercises: Barre, dance, Tai Chi, Yoga, proprioceptive training, weight training, etc. are all great ways to improve balance. Not only will it count as a weight bearing exercise, balance training can also prevent falls.

Get a great physical therapist on your health care team if you want to prevent or treat osteoporosis. A physical therapist can prescribe the best prevention or treatment plan for your needs.

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, contact us today at 503-295-2585. If you live far away, refer to my blog on Find a Good PT and visit apta.org for a list of physical therapists in your area. Best of luck!

Sandra Stryker, PT, MPT, COMT, FAAOMPT